The New Jersey adult-use cannabis sales market was opened at the Verano Zen Leaf dispensary in Elizabeth in Union County this morning.
“Cannabis is now available to anyone 21 and older in New Jersey,” said Zen Leaf representative Destiny.
“Getting to today was a cornerstone promise in social and economic justice that I made nearly six years ago,” Governor Phil Murphy said. “Getting to this moment was also the hope of the overwhelming majority of new Jerseyans who supported establishing your legal adult-use cannabis marketplace in 2020.”
He said he hoped federal legalization would occur as well. He praised the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) for their work setting up the market.
“This is just the beginning. We still have a long way to go before this industry develops,” Murphy said.
He said he wants the diversity of the State reflected in a cannabis industry with many opportunities.
Building a System
“Would all of us, including me, liked to have gotten to this day sooner? Absolutely. If we had only built a system that encouraged the big players to be in New Jersey, it would have been a lot easier,” Murphy said.
He cited the recently licensed conditional licenses as a sign of progress.
“That 100 and some licenses is a rainbow of the diversity of our state, Black Brown, women, vet, minority overall,” Murphy noted about the license winners.
He said the New Jersey adult-use cannabis market “could serve as a model for other states. This is going to be a big industry in this State. A lot more to come in the coming months.”
Murphy praised UFCW labor union leaders Sam Ferraino, Hugh Giordano, and Tom Donahue, noting Elizabeth Verano Zen Leaf workers are represented by them.
“Personal preference. Just because it’s your personal preference doesn’t mean your stigmatizing anybody,” Murphy said when explaining why he doesn’t want to buy adult-use cannabis.
New Jersey Adult-use Cannabis Market Opened
Senate President Nick Scutari (D-Union) noted he has pushed for cannabis legalization since 2004.
“I got laughed at. That laughing continued for years and years until we ended up gathering a bunch of legislators and going out to Colorado,” he said. “I wasn’t sure we were ever going to get here, but here we are.”
When Phil Murphy began exploring running for Governor, Scutari met him partially to see where he stood on the possibility of a New Jersey adult-use cannabis market.
“He wasn’t there yet, but he did get around to it and became our number one cheerleader,” he explained. “So, Governor, thank you.”
Ending the War on Drugs
“The insanity and stupidity of the War on Drugs, it was an absolute misstep,” Scutari said. He was describing his motivation for championing the issue.
“I’m glad there’s long lines. I wanted to be proven right after 18 years of working on it. Because I was really the only one talking about it when we first started,” Scutari said. “There were a lot of lives that were lost or destroyed. There was a lot of economic potential that was never recognized. Today is only the beginning.”
“I’m not sure they’ll be permitted to do so,” Scutari said. He spoke about Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis seeking to block off-duty police officers from consuming.
Ironing Out Details
He said New Jersey’s acting Attorney General Matt Platkin would look into it.
Scutari praised Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage, who was in the crowd for embracing cannabis.
“I think they’re going to be sorry they didn’t as time goes on,” he said about reluctant towns.
“There will be tweaks in the law, not just in that particular area. I don’t want to start treating people individually differently on their own time. There’s a lot of personal behaviors I don’t think the State should be interfering with,” Scutari said.
“These are not gotchya hearings. These are informational hearings to make the industry do better and help us help then,” he said.
“When asked about buying legal adult-use cannabis, Scutari said, “Probably at some point. Not today. I’m not going to wait on line.”
Assembly Speaker Coughlin (D-Middlesex) said he was told the first person on the line arrived at 6:15 AM and noted how excited people were.
At Verano Zen Leaf, he noted after he became Speaker, he went on Scutari’s trip to Colorado.
“I became convinced this was the right to do for New Jersey. And today, it comes to fruition,” Coughlin said.
NJCRC Executive Director Jeff Brown had no concerns about patients accessing medical cannabis. He noted they had priority parking at Zen Leaf, and patients likely bought medical cannabis yesterday on the 4/20 cannabis holiday.
“It’s a milestone. It’s an important milestone. As the Governor said… it’s not the end. It’s the beginning of building this market,” Brown said. “I look forward to this growing to be the industry that’s diverse as our State with opportunities for small businesses, medium businesses, large businesses. It’s a good day.”
Vice Chair Sam Delgado was pleased the market was opening. Unfortunately, NJCRC Chair Diana Houenou was not present.
Praise in Central or North Jersey?
The State believes Elizabeth’s Verano Zen Leaf location to be in Central Jersey. It seems to be in North Jersey to others. Along with debating the name of Taylor Ham or Pork Roll, debating the borders of Central Jersey is a popular local game.
“Today is a remarkable moment, but it is not the final step. We must ensure that both medical and adult-use cannabis are in supply and affordable for New Jerseyans. Otherwise, our efforts will have been in vain,” New Jersey CannaBusiness Association (NJCBA) President Ed DeVeaux said. “We hope everyone enjoys the first day of legal, adult-use cannabis, and we eagerly anticipate more great news to come. “It’s time has come, and we’re doing it the right way.”
He greatly praised Murphy and Scutari for championing the cause.
“However limited, any start to sales marks a notable milestone, one that warrants greater reflection on the long-term goals we want to achieve,” said NORML New Jersey Executive Director Michael Chazukow.
Medical Cannabis Patient Access
Sativa Cross advocate Jason Cordero went to Ascend in Rochelle Park to assess their medical cannabis patient access.
“They had medical patients parking by door and rec in back. I got right in no wait. There was a separate medical desk for intake and a separate counter when I got inside. They knew what was up. I asked super specific requests that they did a good job fulfilling. I was in and out in 10-15 minutes,” he said. “Price and quality is a different story.”
“The launch of New Jersey’s adult-use marketplace is a major step forward for the cannabis industry. It is a privilege to be among the inaugural group of licensees,” said Curaleaf CEO Joe Bayern in a release. “Our local teams look forward to building strong relationships with new consumers while deepening our ties with the medical community.”