Wednesday was America’s unofficial weed holiday, but in an attempt to avoid mass chaos at overrun dispensaries, recreational cannabis sales started in New Jersey on Thursday, April 21st.
Although stoners aren’t traditionally known for being early risers, the first dispensaries opened at the crack of dawn. The RISE shops in Paterson and Bloomfield, owned by Green Thumb Industries, planned to unlock their doors to those older than 21 at 6 a.m.
But only 13 dispensaries are doling out recreational cannabis across the state when sales start, meaning customers may still have to contend with some seriously long lines. Those shops are all that’s available for the roughly 6.6 million adults who are older than 21 in New Jersey.
“Selecting 4/20 for opening day would have presented unmanageable logistical challenges for patients and other buyers, surrounding communities, and for municipalities,” Toni-Anne Blake, a spokeswoman for New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission, told NJ.com when explaining the chosen launch date.
The commission also issued a notice ahead of the launch asking everyone to practice patience — and not to get too high.
Customers are able to buy up to an ounce of weed from the legal shops. But those who are looking for cannabis-infused cookies or brownies may be disappointed. Edibles won’t be for sale — at least not in the form of typical snacks. New Jersey only allows the sale of medicinal-looking ingestibles such as capsules, lozenges or drops.
“We encourage everyone to be safe – buy only from licensed dispensaries and start low and go slow,” Jeff Brown, the commission’s executive director, said in a statement.
The Garden State — a moniker with new meaning this week — initially aimed to get its adult-use market off the ground in February, but blew past that deadline because it was still working to distribute business licenses. To speed things along, the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission gave the green light last week for seven companies that were already selling medical marijuana across the state to expand to recreational sales.
These companies all assured they have enough product to supply both their medical and recreational customers, although it could take a while for New Jersey’s legal industry to produce the requisite cannabis to fully meet the projected demand. Brown estimated last month that the state is still about 100,000 pounds short, although new cultivator licenses have been distributed to help remedy the problem.
While the 13 initial dispensaries were packed on opening day, more retail shops will be available to the general public soon.
Some of the seven licensed companies are already planning to begin recreational sales at additional locations once they get the necessary approvals. For instance, Verano began sales at its Zen Leaf dispensaries in Elizabeth and Lawrence Township on opening day, but a spokesperson said a third location in Neptune Township could follow suit in a few weeks, “pending the completion of several local regulatory and zoning items.”
State regulators are also in the process of approving new businesses for recreational retail licenses. They began accepting retail applications on March 15th.