New Jersey Adult-Use Program Delayed

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In November 2020, New Jersey citizens approved Question 1, the ballot measure to legalize cannabis. A few months later in February 2021, NJ Governor Phil Murphy signed three bills into law that laid out the framework for how the state would move forward with legalized adult-use cannabis.

The law tasked the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) with developing regulations for the market by June of 2021. The CRC is currently made up of five members, who set a deadline of February 22, 2022, for when New Jersey was to officially launch the adult-use cannabis program and commence sales. Unfortunately, it does not seem likely that the CRC will be ready by then. According to several reporting news outlets and the CRC itself, there are a couple of issues that is causing the delay. “One of the biggest deficiencies we’re seeing is a lack of municipal approval,” stated Jeff Brown, executive director of the CRC. Currently, approximately 100 municipalities have opted-in, which is only about 20% of the municipalities in the state.

The other 80% of municipalities that have not opt-in to the adult-use program are not against the program, but rather are not prepared with regard to ordinances and zoning laws that need to be enacted for the adult-use program to succeed, as well as not having the available staff to ensure the process goes smoothly. Many local government workers hold part-time positions or have a staff that is too small to be able to go through the process of enacting ordinances and zoning laws at the same rate as the CRC is going.

The second issue of concern for the CRC is the lack of supply. Brown noted that the CRC wants to ensure there is adequate supply before the state opens the adult-use market. Several informational sessions held by adult-use cannabis activists have demonstrated medical patients are worried about the lack of supply they will face once the adult-use program opens. When allowing both medical and recreational cannabis sales, there are usually some hiccups.

There are a wide range of solutions that could help mitigate this concern. The CRC or municipalities could enact special provisions for medical patients such as setting a time frame for medical patients only to buy their product, have an adult use line and a medical use line, with the medical line having priority, temporary limits on what adult-use consumers can buy, online order reservations for medical patients, and possibly medical-only delivery.

While the Garden State has expressed delays in launching the adult-use program, the state is currently accepting applications for cultivation and manufacturing. The application process for retail opens on March 15th, and the CRC has yet to delay that launch date.

 

 

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