In 2020, voters in New Jersey approved legalizing marijuana for recreational use in the state. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement, Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act into law, expanding the reach of legalization efforts in the United States. In fact, New Jersey was the first state on the east coast to approve cannabis legalization.
Since legalization in New Jersey, the state has continued to amend cannabis policy and look for new ways to bolster the booming marijuana industry. In the fiscal year 2022, marijuana sales exceeded $100 million for the first time during the third quarter. However, regulators believe there is still room for growth and ways to expand.
Today, New Jersey regulators want to shake up cannabis consumption rules and are open to hearing the public’s thoughts on the matter. How could these new rules change New Jersey marijuana consumption? Some hope the proposed rule change will advance social equity in the state and give users a safe space to gather and consume cannabis.
Cannabis Consumption Rule Changes
When New Jersey first legalized recreational cannabis consumption, individuals could buy marijuana from licensed dispensaries but could not consume the product in public. However, that may be about to change thanks to new rules proposed by the state’s regulatory commission.
The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission recently filed new proposed rules that seek to create cannabis consumption areas where individuals could use marijuana on-site at any licensed cannabis retailer. These proposed consumption lounges can either be indoors or outdoors.
Patrons of cannabis lounges would be subject to New Jersey age requirements, meaning individuals must be over 21 to enter. Customers also need to present a valid driver’s license or photo ID.
Businesses cannot sell food or drinks at the consumption locations. Instead, individuals consuming marijuana on-site would be allowed to bring their own food or beverages or order from a food delivery service. These consumption lounges would also prohibit the use of alcohol or tobacco. Currently, only six other states in the United States allow individuals to purchase and consume cannabis on-site.
The New Jersey Cannabis governing body suggests that the new rules could advance social equity and allow individuals over 21 to enjoy cannabis in a safe and controlled environment. Additionally, the board hopes the move brings new cannabis-related jobs to the area. Cannabis retailers who apply for endorsement may need additional staff to support the venture, leading to new job opportunities for individuals interested in working in the cannabis industry.
Legalizing marijuana in New Jersey made buying cannabis easier for residents. However, consuming cannabis, like smoking and vaping in public, is tightly regulated and outright banned in some areas. Similarly, landlords can prohibit smoking marijuana on their property. These stipulations make it challenging for some people to find a safe space to legally consume cannabis. The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission hopes a rule change can give cannabis enthusiasts more flexibility to enjoy marijuana.
What Can Retail Businesses Expect?
If the proposed rule changes go into effect, businesses could begin applying for consumption licenses. Application and licensing fees for microbusiness retailers looking to add consumption lounges would be $1,000. Standard retailers interested in adding cannabis consumption lounges would pay $5,000. Businesses would be required to seek reapproval of their license annually.
One New Jersey business is already interested in the idea and wants to bring a cannabis retailer and lounge to one Northern New Jersey neighborhood. New Jersey officials are hopeful other cannabis retailers will follow suit, adding to the $79 million in total cannabis sales retailers have collected across the state.
Rule Change Is Not a Free-for-All
Although the proposed rule change would help expand New Jersey’s cannabis industry and give individuals a safe and relaxing environment to enjoy their favorite products, state law allows local municipalities to set their own rules. Local ordinances can restrict or ban the consumption of cannabis in certain areas.
For example, the Wildwood Crest area banned all smoking on beaches and in public places in 2021. In the past, other areas of New Jersey, including Ringwood, Totowa, and Bloomingdale, sought to ban cannabis businesses. Today, at least 29 percent of New Jersey municipalities welcome some form of the cannabis business. Some areas that opted out of participating in the marijuana industry have since changed their stance.
New Jersey can change its laws and allow for the creation of cannabis lounges in the state. However, it is uncertain how many municipalities will go along with the regulation and how many may try to ban the practice locally.
What Comes Next?
Members of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission unanimously voted to approve the proposed new regulations in December. Before rules are adopted, there will be a 60-day public comment period to gauge public reaction to the measure. If you are interested in learning more or voicing your opinion on the proposed rule changes, you review the rule and amendments and leave comments for the commission on their website. The public comment period ends on March 18th.
After the conclusion of the public comment period, the commission can approve consumption areas, and municipalities can adopt ordinances to allow consumption lounges attached to licensed retailers. Getting the opinion of New Jersey residents is a vital step for the commission. Public input can impact policy and lead to amendments that can further shape the proposed consumption rules.
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