While adult-use cannabis legalization was signed by New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy a year ago, the legal market is not open, leaving the industry and community frustrated.
“Though the adult-use market won’t be a reality for several more months, the change in the law had a more immediate and dramatic impact: It brought an end to mass arrests of cannabis consumers,” Murphy said to the cannabis advocacy group NORML.
Instead of “months,” Murphy recently said it might merely take “weeks” to open the adult-use cannabis market at the existing medical dispensaries.
He noted that what has been lost in the desire to consume adult-use cannabis is no one is supposed to have been arrested for possession of six ounces or less of cannabis following the signing of the decriminalization bill.
“I am immensely proud that decriminalizing cannabis has led to a reduction of unnecessary arrests among communities of color. Social justice will continue to guide our ongoing efforts toward the establishment of New Jersey’s adult-use recreational cannabis market,” Murphy added.
President of the NJ CannaBusiness Association (NJCBA) Ed DeVeaux told an audience at an event they held that he is eager to see a New Jersey adult-use cannabis market with strong “Buy Local” principles. Since only two medical cannabis dispensaries are locally owned, he is not distressed.
“It is the legislative and regulatory intent to make sure that Jersey jobs, Jersey applicants are successful during the growth of this industry,” he noted. “If you flip the switch on yesterday to create an adult-use market, there are only 12 organizations in the State that would benefit.”
DeVeaux argued that opening the market now would contradict the intent of legalization to help those most harmed by the War on Drugs, including minorities, women, and disabled veterans.
“I know a lot of us advocating for an adult-use market for years are somewhat disappointed. The people the legalization effort was supposed to benefit would not benefit by flipping the switch yesterday,” he added.
While there are delays, the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) has progressed towards the market with cultivation and manufacturing licenses being scored and adult-use dispensaries applications being accepted starting March 15th. The CRC started accepting applications for cultivation, manufacturing, and operating labs on December 15th. The NJ CRC is meeting later today and according to their agenda, they are not prepared to announce the adult-use cannabis market’s opening.
The lack of an adult-use market has made many in the cannabis community frustrated at the constant delays due to politics, lawsuits, and the COVID pandemic.
Town Power and Medical Cannabis Dispensaries
The existing medical cannabis dispensaries and members of the NJ Cannabis Trade Association (NJCTA) are very eager to sell adult-use cannabis, but many have yet to figure out how to secure local approval.
These large cannabis corporations from elsewhere that are Multi-State Operators (MSOs) do not seem to understand how powerful town governments are in New Jersey. There’s a reason the biggest political conference in the State is held by the League of Municipalities.
While Verano threatened to lay off its workers publicly, they admitted to Heady NJ they also have yet to secure adult-use permission by their local towns. They did not return a follow-up email to confirm they had secured permission.
While Curaleaf wants to sell adult-use cannabis, its dispensaries are in medical-only towns.
The NJCTA did not respond to an email for comment by the time of publication.
Cannabis policy experts and activists have long assumed they would be allowed to sell in the adult-use cannabis market first.
Adult-use Cannabis Demand Met by Constitutionally Legal Market
While delays have become customary and expected, the libertarian-minded cannabis market has flourished since the official interpretation language of the adult-use referendum said sales would start January 1, 2021. This market has been meeting the demand for an adult-use cannabis market.
CBD vendors selling Delta-8 THC products which get you high through a loophole have also met the demand.
The problem remains how to integrate such entrepreneurs into a legal market in the wake of the problems of the most visible actors.
The issue is especially pressing since legitimate small businesspeople in the California adult-use cannabis market are struggling to cope with the significant costs of doing business imposed by the State. In contrast, the well-established de-facto California cannabis industry operates without feeling the need to comply with regulations and is doing better than those following the rules.
The NJCTA does not like such operators.
Along with the constitutional adult-use cannabis market, the New Jersey medical cannabis market has grown to about 125,000 patients securing their medicine from 23 locations operated by 10 of the 56 New Jersey licensed cannabis companies. Forty-four medical cannabis companies were approved last year.