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New Jersey Governor Says Adult-Use Pot Sales Could Start Soon

Democratic Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey announced the imminent launch of the state’s regulated recreational cannabis market, saying retail sales could begin “within weeks.” The announcement came after regulators missed last Tuesday’s self-imposed deadline for adult-use cannabis sales to start.

“If I had to predict, we are within weeks—I would hope in March—you would see implicit movement on the medical dispensaries, some of them being able to sell recreational,” Murphy said on his WBGO Newark radio show, as quoted by “They’ve got to prove they’ve got the supply for their medical customers. I hope shortly thereafter, the standalone recreational marijuana operators.”

New Jersey voters approved Question 1 (a ballot measure which passed with 67% of the votes) to legalize adult-use cannabis. The law set a September 2021 deadline for the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) to begin accepting applications for business licenses. 

But, they missed the deadline. Instead of announcing that the CRC was establishing the process for accepting applications, they announced the following: CRC opened applications to cannabis growers, testing laboratories, and manufacturers on December 15th. The launch of applications to retail recreational marijuana retailers is scheduled for March 15.

Retail sales deadline missed by regulators

It also stipulated that the legal sale of recreational cannabis must begin within six months of its adoption by the Commission. Murphy indicated in September that sales for adult use would likely be delayed. Sales will first begin in the state’s existing medical cannabis dispensaries, which now serve 120,000 registered patients, followed by retailers licensed to sell only recreational cannabis.

“First or second quarter from a medical dispensary, and then a little bit behind that from a standalone retail shop,” the governor said at the time. “I think there’s a very good chance, assuming the medical dispensaries can prove that they’ve got enough supply for their patients, that they’ll be able to participate in the adult use of cannabis before there are actually retail establishments independently set up, but this is coming.”

Eight of the 10 companies operating New Jersey’s 23 medical marijuana dispensaries have applied for licenses to sell adult-use cannabis. CRC Executive Director Jeff Brown said on Thursday that five of those applications had been deemed “complete and are in substantive review.” 

Brown stated last month that there were several reasons why licenses for recreational cannabis sales had not been approved by the local authorities. Under the state’s regulations, municipalities must approve a medical cannabis dispensary’s bid to begin serving adult-use cannabis consumers.

“One of the biggest deficiencies we’re seeing is a lack of municipal approval,” Brown said at a meeting in January. “That’s an issue, and supply continues to be an issue. It’s the priority of the CRC to get recreational sales started as soon as we can, but we have to do it in a way that’s compliant with the law. We need the industry to get there.”

But medical cannabis operators, including Curaleaf northeast regional president Patrik Jonsson, criticized the CRC’s slow pace of approving licenses. If the recreational marijuana market is not opened soon, some companies claim they might have to fire employees or destroy expired product.

“They’re so concerned with getting it perfect, and it’s unfortunate because I think you’re losing a lot of opportunities,” Jonsson told USA TODAY Network New Jersey last month.

Murphy acknowledged Wednesday that legalizing marijuana in New Jersey has proved difficult, and it is taking longer than Murphy expected. But, the governor said, it is “better to be right than fast.”

“And God willing, that’s what we’re gonna get,” Murphy added.