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New Jersey Regulators Delay Launch of Recreational Pot Sales

Last week, New Jersey regulators declined to issue retail cannabis licenses for eight medical dispensaries that sell adult-use marijuana. This delayed the anticipated launch of recreational cannabis sales in New Jersey by at least two weeks. This delay was reported to have surprised insiders in the cannabis industry. Phil Murphy said that recreational sales were expected to begin “within weeks.”

At a meeting of the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) on Thursday, executive director Jeff Brown said that the agency wants the eight alternative treatment centers (ATCs), as medical cannabis dispensaries are called in New Jersey, to submit plans specifying how the businesses will ensure there is enough cannabis for patients when recreational sales begin.

“We may not be 100% there today, but I assure you we will get there,” Brown said on March 24, as quoted by “We have a few things to address and when we address them I’m happy to return to this body with a further update.”

In a 5-0 vote, the commission decided to place the recreational sales licences for eight businesses in limbo until a later date.

New Jersey patients need to have access to cannabis.

Brown indicated that the commission is worried that dispensaries won’t have sufficient cannabis for medical patients. The market might be lacking up to 100,000 pounds to supply both recreational and medicinal customers. Brown stated that the CRC will visit applicants in order to ensure that they are able to deal with the new customer influx. He also noted that the Commission wanted separate entry points and services for recreational and patients customers.

“Our goal is to work with the industry and the industry to work with us so at the very next CRC meeting we have a cohort of ATCs that are turn-key to launch this market here, simply pending a vote by this commission,” Brown said. “If for any that are still not there, hopefully [they’ll be] ready for conditional approval pending certain timelines and regulatory milestones that we can work to get done.”

Nicholas Scutari (Senate President), was the leader of the push to legalize recreational and medical cannabis in New Jersey. He expressed disappointment at the CRC’s delay.

“Totally unacceptable,” Scutari wrote in a text message to NJ Advance Media. “The Senate is weighing its options with regard to oversight.”

Representatives of the state’s cannabis industry were also displeased by the setback. The New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association said in a statement that it “remains optimistic that the CRC will sooner rather than later open the adult-use cannabis market in New Jersey, though we admit to being disappointed with today’s decision to further continue its delay.”

“In November 2020, New Jerseyans made it very clear that they wanted a safe and legal adult-use cannabis marketplace in the state,” the trade group added. “It goes without saying that no one could have foreseen that some 16 months later, we would still be waiting to see this come to fruition.”

However, the CRC approved conditional licenses to 68 adult-use marijuana producers and cultivators. The licenses, which were approved as a social equity measure, are designed to ensure a path into New Jersey’s recreational cannabis market for small businesses.

“This is a historic action that the Board is proposed to take with these first conditional licenses to sell adult-use recreational cannabis in the state of New Jersey,” Brown said before the board voted to approve the conditional licenses. “I am humbled to make this announcement.”

“These are the first businesses to get a foot forward in the state of New Jersey,” he added. “I cannot stress that enough.”

The Governor Says That Adult-Use Sale will Begin within Weeks

Murphy predicted that Murphy would soon be able to end the CRC’s delay in launching recreational cannabis sales after it failed to meet their deadline.

“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 last month on his WBGO Newark 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.”

Murphy reiterated his belief that recreational cannabis sales would soon begin after last week’s CRC announcement.

“The way this is supposed to work, and it is working this way: If a medical dispensary can prove it has more than enough supply for its medical customers, it’s at least eligible,” Murphy said.

“Assuming it meets all the other requirements, it should be deemed eligible,” the governor added. “I believe it will still be a matter of weeks. It’s not gonna be months.”

While the CRC did NOT indicate how long this latest delay would be, it posted notices of an April 11 special meeting.