Legal marijuana sales will begin next Thursday in New Jersey
The first adult-use recreational cannabis sales in New Jersey will begin next Thursday, marking the culmination of a years-long effort to legalize marijuana and reduce racially skewed penalties for possession of the drug.
At least half a dozen medical marijuana dispensaries plan to open their doors to all adults on April 21 after winning final approval from the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission this week.
“This is a historic step,” Governor Philip D. Murphy wrote Thursday. Twitter as he announced the official start date.
The enthusiasm within the industry was palpable.
The Bloomfield and Paterson dispensaries, both about 20 miles from Midtown Manhattan, planned to entertain queuing customers with a DJ, a donut truck and a steel drum band.
“The end of prohibition is coming to New Jersey,” said Ben Kovler, general manager of Green Thumb Industries, which operates the two dispensaries. “We are prepared for a tidal wave of demand.”
He estimated that New Jersey, the second East Coast state to begin adult sales, could eventually become a $3 billion industry.
“The War on Drugs has been a failure for people of color,” he said. “It’s going to create a lot of wealth, for a lot of people.”
Although eager for additional revenue, political leaders said they were bracing for the potential for additional crowds and car traffic.
In Maplewood, where a medical marijuana dispensary that operates on a main street was preparing to open to all adults, Mayor Dean Dafis said he held a meeting Thursday afternoon to finalize a drug control strategy. crowds.
Maplewood Township Council is expected to consider a resolution early next week allowing the dispensary, the Apothecarium, to open for adult sales at 10 a.m. next Thursday.
“We are delighted,” said Mr. Dafis, a Democrat. “It’s the right thing. Legalization and decriminalization are long overdue.
Cities that allow cannabis businesses to operate may charge an additional 2% tax on top of state taxes and surcharges.
“Revenue is good for the city of Elizabeth,” said J. Christian Bollwage, the mayor of Elizabeth, the state’s fourth-largest city with a dispensary on Route 9, about three miles from Newark Liberty International Airport.
“We’re going to be surrounded by it, so why not get the revenue?”
New Jersey voters approved a referendum legalizing marijuana in November 2020, but it wasn’t until this week that the commission set a path for the first legal sales of adult-use recreational cannabis. On Monday, seven companies and 13 medical marijuana dispensaries they operate were given the green light to sell their products to all adults.
Not all should be ready to open by next Thursday; State officials said a full list of stores that will open April 21 would be posted on the commission’s website as soon as dispensaries confirm their plans.
Each cannabis company had to demonstrate that it had sufficient supply for both medical and recreational customers, as well as plans in place to ensure that patients were not preempted by the flood of customers expected when legal sales began in the region. densely populated region. .
Ken Wolski, a nurse and executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana, said he’s pleased that New Jersey has prioritized the state’s 170,000 registered patients for medical marijuana.
“I’m happy that sales are starting now,” Mr. Wolski said. “Our organization’s goal is to bring this essential medicine to as many people as possible.”
Still, one of the state’s largest cannabis companies, Curaleaf, has suggested that medical marijuana customers may want to avoid crowds when stocking up on marijuana this week. “The Garden State is about to get greener, so if you’re a medical patient, be sure to shop now to skip the lines and get the medications you need,” one ad read. .
New Jersey’s first legal sales will only occur at medical marijuana dispensaries, which are primarily run by large multistate and international cannabis companies.
But Dianna Houenou, chair of the commission, reiterated her commitment to building an industry that helps alleviate the damage caused by the war on drugs, especially in communities of color.
“Ultimately, we hope to see businesses and a workforce that reflect the state’s diversity,” Houenou said in a statement.
New Jersey gives priority consideration to businesses operated by people with marijuana convictions as well as businesses run by minorities, women, and disabled veterans.
As competition increases, officials expect the price of marijuana — which in New Jersey is now around $340 an ounce, according to an industry tracker — to come down.
The state has received more than 320 applications from start-ups hoping to open recreational cannabis retail stores throughout New Jersey. But decisions on those apps aren’t expected for at least a month, and it’s likely to be a year or more before stores are ready to open.
The commission also granted conditional approval to 102 companies that applied to grow or manufacture cannabis. These companies must now find a place to operate – and permission from the host city – before their conditional permits can be considered valid.
Only people 21 and older will be allowed to buy cannabis.
But Nick DeMauro, a former Bergen County, NJ, police detective, said when legal sales began, it was also important to strengthen programs that educate students about the risks of underage cannabis use. .
“It’s not going away,” said Mr. DeMauro, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Drugs & Violence. “We need to step up our efforts to make sure children make good decisions.”
Before New Jersey legalized marijuana, black residents were more than three times more likely than white residents to be charged with drug possession, despite similar rates of use, according to a study by American Civil Liberties. Union of New Jersey.
Amol Sinha, executive director of the ACLU in New Jersey, applauded the news of an official start date — a decade-long achievement.
“The status quo,” he said, “is no longer criminalization – but fair industry.”