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New Jersey Lawmaker Plans Hearings for Delays to Cannabis Launch

New Jersey’s Adult-Use Cannabis Program is in a slow start. Sales have been delayed repeatedly, making it difficult for the program to launch. 

One of the top Garden State legislators is looking for answers. He’s working diligently with a committee to find them. 

Nick Scutari, the president of the New Jersey State Senate, said Tuesday that he is forming a special legislative committee to look into why legal pot sales still haven’t begun in the state.

“These delays are totally unacceptable,” Scutari said in a statement. “We need to get the legal marijuana market up and running in New Jersey. This has become a failure to follow through on the public mandate and to meet the expectations for new businesses and consumers.”

In a press release, Scutari’s office said he wants “explanations on the repeated hold-ups in expanding medical dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana and in the opening of retail facilities for adult-use cannabis,” as well as to find out “what can be done to meet the demands and reduce the costs of medical marijuana.”

New Jersey voters approved in 2020 an amendment to legalize recreational cannabis use for those aged 21 or older. But, nothing has been done to legalize recreational marijuana. 

Scutari was instrumental in the creation and passage of legislation last year to establish an adult-use program. 

The new cannabis program was plagued with delays, starting in September when the deadline expired for applications by would-be cannabis producers, testing labs, and growers.

The launch of recreational pot sales was delayed by New Jersey regulators last month. Phil Murphy, the Democratic Governor indicated this fact to reporters. 

“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 during an interview on a radio show. “They’ve got to prove they’ve got the supply for their medical customers. I hope shortly thereafter, the standalone recreational marijuana operators.”

However, the plan was thwarted by last week’s denial of licenses from New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission to allow eight medical cannabis dispensaries to operate adult-use marijuana.

Jeff Brown is the Executive Director of the Commission. He stated that the panel wants to get more information about the medicinal dispensaries on how they plan to have enough product for both sets.

“We may not be 100% there today, but I assure you we will get there,” Brown said last week. “We have a few things to address and when we address them I’m happy to return to this body with a further update.”

Scutari hopes to find the root cause of these delays. His office said Tuesday that his plan is to “form a bi-partisan special committee” and then ask “the Assembly if they want to participate to make it a joint panel of legislators from both houses.”

“The oversight hearings will include an accounting from CRC officials and input from those operating cannabis businesses or waiting to get licensed, as well as others involved in the legal marijuana market,” the press release from Scutari’s office explained. 

“The voters approved adult-use recreational marijuana in 2020 and the implementing legislation was enacted more than a year ago. Cannabis Regulatory Commission failed to meet its deadline. [medical cannabis dispensaries]It is possible to market to the recreational market. There have been many delays in obtaining the licenses for growers, distributors, and retailers to sell to the adult-use market. Senator Scutari said the committee’s membership and scheduling will be worked out soon.”