What to Know About New Jersey’s Recreational Marijuana Market Launch

In November 2020, New Jersey voted for legal recreational marijuana in the state. It was a huge victory – two-thirds of voters supported and one-third opposed legalization – and the state has spent the past two and a half years writing regulations and developing a distribution system so that adults can buy cannabis in the state. As of today, people can now purchase recreational cannabis in New Jersey.

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) has named seven adult recreational retail locations, all of which were involved in distributing medical marijuana in the state. The seven centers will have a total of 13 stores selling legal recreational marijuana.

Location Store Hour opens
Elizabeth Zen leaf 9 a.m.
Lawrence Zen Leaf 9 a.m.
Botanist Williamstown Acreage 10 a.m.
Botanist Egg Harbor Acreage 10 a.m.
Rochelle Park Ascend 8 a.m.
RISE Bloomfield Green Thumb 6 a.m.
RISE Paterson Green Thumb 6 a.m.
Bellmawr Curaleaf 9:30 a.m.
Edgewater Park  Curaleaf 10 a.m.
Maplewood  Apothecarium 9 a.m.
Phillipsburg  Apothecarium 10 a.m.
Deptford  Cannabist/Columbia Care 5 p.m.
Vineland Cannabist/Columbia Care 5 p.m.

The CRC has also approved 102 conditional licenses for smaller cultivators and manufacturers with diverse ownership. Some of these storefronts may take up to a year to begin retailing marijuana and other products.

Several New Jersey cannabis advocacy organizations did not criticize the state for the delay in getting storefronts up and running because their priority was on medical marijuana patients, who hold medical ID cards and who the state wanted to ensure would have access to their medicine.  For retail operations to obtain the proper license, the alternative treatment centers needed to list the ways they would prioritize medical cannabis patients. Strategies included medical-only hours, hotlines for patients, lines in the store solely for medical customers, and point of sale stations for medical cannabis. Some vendors are also holding educational town halls for medical marijuana customers.

It is also a priority for dispensaries to have adequate inventory to serve their medical customers first. For example, a dispensary that serves 1000 patients has to grow the inventory needed to serve them. They can grow for the 1000 patients and then grow for the recreational customer later.

How Much Can People Legally Possess?

The law in New Jersey is that people can possess up to six ounces of marijuana without penalty. When ths state passed the recreational marijuana law, the police stopped arresting people for possession almost immediately.

New Jersey has also placed a high priority on serving those harmed by cannabis prohibition. The CRC seeks to ensure a diverse and inclusive industry by providing access to capital and training municipal officials to put a priority on equity and inclusion for growers and retailers.

A group in New Jersey, Salvation and Social Justice, has been impressed with provisions addressing social justice in the new marijuana industry.  New Jersey has named three categories of applications that receive priority from the state: People who have lived in low-income neighborhoods or have past marijuana convictions; businesses owned by people of color; and businesses that are located in cities or towns with large populations and high unemployment rates, or high arrest rates for marijuana-related crimes. These last neighborhoods are designated “Impact Zones” by the state. As the state provides training and capital for these applicants, the state hopes that more of these citizens can start successful marijuana-related companies.

Municipalities in New Jersey have some ability to set the rules for cultivation and retail, like setting hours and deciding how many marijuana-related businesses they will allow in their cities. Indeed, it is assumed that some municipalities will allow cultivation but not retail.

Dianne Houenou is the head of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission. She has spent much of her professional life working on issues related to cannabis prohibition and legal ramifications. She worked for the America Civil Liberties Union on marijuana-related advocacy and as a senior policy adviser in the governor’s office. Her priority has always been to develop a legalized and well-regulated structure, not just abolishing cannabis prohibition.

Houenou found that people who sincerely supported the prohibition of cannabis did not do so because they wanted to harm minorities. Still, the reality was that enforcement of cannabis prohibition had a larger impact on black and Hispanic populations. In fact, marijuana usage is quite stable across racial and ethnic lines, but arrests disproportionately affect minorities. And the penalties for an arrest and conviction for possession of marijuana can lead to jail time, loss of a job, loss of housing, and loss of financial aid for students. An arrest and conviction for possession can hurt entire families. With that in mind, the surest way to eliminate the disproportionate impact on minorities was to legalize it and develop a strong regulatory regime.

Houenou makes a point to get into dialogues with people who do not support the legalization of recreational cannabis. She has found that the reasons some people are against it can be diverse, and she is willing to listen closely to their reasoning. There is no turning back now, marijuana is legal in New Jersey, and the 2-to-1 margins of the vote indicate the new policy is popular enough to persist. But Houenou wants to hear from people about public safety and public health issues related to legalization. She also wants to give opportunities to those who want to start their own businesses related to cannabis and have them be successful enough to support their families.

State leaders have considered many issues related to the legalization of recreational marijuana. They are eager to see this brand-new industry that will bring in considerable tax revenue succeed in the Garden State.

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