Legal marijuana will finally be for sale in New Jersey in the coming weeks — and those over 21 won’t need a medical card to get it. The Garden State is likely to attract customers from New York, where legal sales aren’t expected to start until the end of 2022.
New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) voted Monday to allow seven companies that already operate medical marijuana dispensaries to open their doors to the general public. The decision ends a series of setbacks the state’s adult-use market faced during its launch phase this winter and spring.
“From the beginning, the goal has been to stand up the industry correctly, and we hope to see sustained momentum in getting the adult-use market off the ground for the benefit of New Jersey consumers and businesses, and our state’s economic development,” Craig Coughlin, speaker of the New Jersey Assembly, said in a statement on the vote.
Last month, Jeff Brown, the CRC’s executive director, said that he and other regulators were not yet confident that all of the medical marijuana companies seeking to expand into the recreational market were ready to do so. He raised concerns about whether those suppliers would have enough cannabis to meet demand while also ensuring continued access for their medical patients. But Brown said regulators would work with the companies to prepare for the transition.
On Monday, he recommended all but one of those applicants for approval. The companies will have to undergo final assessments and pay licensing fees before sales begin. There is no set time frame for this process.
Brown said it could take less than 30 days or more than 30 days — so it’s unclear when the first recreational sales will take place.
This first batch of companies include several large, multi-state operators, some of which also have businesses in New York. They are Acreage Holdings, Curaleaf, Columbia Care, Verano, Green Thumb Industries, Ascend Wellness and TerrAscend.
This decision runs somewhat contrary to a pledge made by New Jersey officials, who said they would prioritize diversity and social equity in the recreational licensing process. Because officials only opened up applications for retail licenses in the program on March 15th, the medical companies that got approved for recreational sales on Monday will have a head start over newer entrants.
At Monday’s meeting, a representative from each company laid out plans for ensuring that medical patients would be prioritized amid the recreational rollout.
Some companies said they would have separate lines for medical customers and allow them to order online for curbside pickup. They also said that if certain products were running low they would keep them on hand for medical customers only.
The companies are also required to establish labor peace agreements with unions, should their employees decide to organize. CRC Commissioner Krista Nash voted against approving one company, TerrAscend, saying that it did not appear to make a good faith effort to establish such an agreement. But the application went through anyway.
“Since New Jersey residents voted to legalize adult-use cannabis in November 2020, it has been a long road to receiving approval for selling safe, vetted products,” the New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association said in a statement. “The NJCTA remains committed to working with Governor [Phil] Murphy and the CRC to ensure New Jersey’s adult-use market flourishes in the wake of today’s historic announcement.”