New Jersey has taken another step toward offering legal cannabis to adult users by expanding the number of licenses to serve the state’s medical cannabis patients. On Oct. 15, 2021, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission awarded 14 licenses to businesses serving the medical cannabis industry.
This blog from ImEPIK will look at how these approvals could speed up the availability of adult-use sales in the state, which were approved by voters a year ago and signed into law this spring with the Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance and Marketplace Modernization (CREAMM) Act.
New Jersey’s Medicinal Marijuana Program was signed in early 2010 by outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine. The first dispensary opened in late 2012; there are now 23 licensed dispensaries.
The mid-October approvals restarted a process that began more than two years ago when the state requested applications for up to 24 new licenses. The process was halted after about a fourth of the applications were disqualified for various reasons and courts ordered the process to stop as companies appealed. Additional delays were attributed to the medical cannabis program being moved from the NJ Department of Health to the newly established NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC).
Patients First, Then Recreational Users
In the meantime, the number of patients enrolled in the program has increased, and current demand is far outpacing supply. David Knowlton, chairman, and CEO of the Cannabis Education and Research Institute, recently relayed his group’s concerns that recreational-use sales in New Jersey could compromise the ability for patients to buy cannabis products.
In an opinion piece at NJ.com, Knowlton acknowledged that rules for the personal use of cannabis adopted by the NJCRC on Aug. 19, 2021, specify that licenses for that market must consider the effect on the supply for the medical cannabis market.
But to ensure patients receive priority, the Institute is asking the state to allow approved businesses to grow more cannabis and for policies that stipulate dispensaries keep a certain amount of cannabis on hand for patients.
“We appreciate the challenges of supplying patients in addition to the recreational market — and we understand the pressure on the state to allow recreational cannabis to go on sale,” Knowlton wrote. “But before the door is opened to recreational users, our state regulators must first show exactly how patients, many of them seriously ill, will be able to get a medicine they need.”
New Jersey Moves Closer to Recreational-Use Sales
Ten of the licenses went to cultivators, and four went to vertically integrated businesses, allowing them to grow, process, and sell medical cannabis at dispensaries. With 14 new growers to supply New Jersey patients, that will expedite the opening of the recreational-use market. NJ Gov. Phil Murphy has said medical dispensaries might be serving recreational-use consumers by the first or second quarter of 2022, with retail dispensaries opening after that.
The state has not yet set a date to begin accepting recreational-use business proposals, but cannabis proponents say the mid-October licensing is a step in that direction.
New Jersey CannaBusiness Association President Edmund DeVeaux issued a statement, calling the commission’s actions “progress in the cannabis space.”
“The CRC’s action today moves us one step closer to issuing applications for the first round of adult-use licenses in New Jersey,” he said in the statement. “Like many, we await that day with eager anticipation and look forward to helping future adult-use license holders as well.”
Cannabis Edibles as a Choice for NJ Consumers
The recreational-use rules adopted by the NJCRC in August limit edibles to “syrups, pills, tablets, capsules, and chewables.” However, that doesn’t mean that baked goods, chocolates, and other edibles won’t be available in New Jersey at some point. The rules expire after a year, and the commission can revisit the allowed forms of cannabis.
Jeff Brown, executive director of the commission, told the Asbury Park Press that the deadline to adopt the rules didn’t allow for the time needed to set regulations for the manufacture of edibles in a kitchen environment. He told the publication the commission could decide to issue waivers allowing the production of edibles.
There are no plans to do so at this time, but cannabis advocates are optimistic the state will join the ranks of those allowing foods and beverages with cannabis. So, it would behoove cannabis edible business owners to get ready.
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