New Jerseyans started lining up before dawn on Thursday at the RISE dispensary in Bloomfield to be among the first non-medical customers to buy cannabis legally in the Garden State.
Steve, 51, who declined to share his last name, made one of the first purchases after the shop opened at 6 a.m. He said he used to smoke a lot in his youth, but isn’t much of a cannabis user anymore. Still, he wanted to celebrate the “historic” occasion.
“My 19-year-old self wouldn't forgive my 51-year-old self if I didn't show up here today," he said.
When he got to the counter, Steve admitted he wasn’t sure what to get, noting that a lot has changed in terms of what’s available since the late 1980s and early 1990s. After consulting with a “budtender,” he ended up buying an eighth of “Sunset Sherbert” for $60, plus tax.
“I said, ‘I just want to listen to Pink Floyd and zone out and laugh with my friends,’ and he said, ‘OK, this is what you want,’" Steve said.
This day has been a longtime coming, since Jerseyites first voted to legalize recreational marijuana through a ballot measure in November 2020 and Gov. Phil Murphy later signed laws to launch the legal industry in February.
Ben Kovler, the CEO of Green Thumb Industries, which owns the RISE dispensaries, was on hand for the big day. "We want to show people that this is a positive thing,” Kovler said outside the dispensary. “Lead with information: very clean look, tested, safe product."
Kovler said he is not worried about running out of supplies, something that has been a concern for regulators.
Although the store, which up until Thursday served as a medical dispensary, is somewhat clinical looking, some customers came with their own celebratory swag — such as a guy who held up a giant black and white American flag covered in green pot leaves.
Another customer at RISE Bloomfield, 43-year-old Greg DeLucia from Nutley, started waiting in line at 5:15 a.m. He said his wife texted him a long list of cannabis products to pick up, but he reminded her, “We're not going to Colorado or Massachusetts. We can come back tomorrow.”
He added, “I'm sure we'll be here a lot."
DeLucia said he didn’t mind having to pay a sales tax if it meant a more normal retail experience. When buying from a dealer, he said, “You're hopping in a rando’s car. Like, it's just not the best feeling. So, I'd rather do this. I'll take the tax."
At the Apothecarium dispensary in Maplewood, about 50 people were in line by the time the doors opened at 9 a.m. Medical customers were allowed in first, as recreational buyers were handed a paper menu of items so they could check off what they wanted while they were waiting in line. Meanwhile, staff at the dispensary, owned by the company TerrAscend, handed out tote bags and other swag that said, “Grown in the Garden State.”
An eighth of flower there goes for $65, while a pack of seven pre-rolled joints can be purchased for $70, or $10 apiece. Vape oil cartridges are a hefty $125.
Christian Pastuisaca, 28, who came from Belleville, said the prices weren’t too much higher than what he’s used to paying a dealer.
"I'm willing to pay the price for some top-shelf cannabis,” he added.
There are currently 13 dispensaries open to those over 21 in New Jersey, with more coming soon.