After the New Jersey medical cannabis dispensary licensing process was halted in late 2019 amid a legal dispute, an appeals court ruling Feb. 18 has once again restored the green light to regulators and prospective businesses. Some 150 applications are back on the table, with the state able to issue up to 24 new licenses.
The court also insisted that the New Jersey Department of Health clean up its licensing process and take a more transparent approach to the work.
"Hopefully this decision will allow everyone to move on and start getting down to the business of providing patients the medicine they need," said Edmund DeVeaux, president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, in a public statement. "Far too much time, energy and money has been expended on this entire licensing process with too few results to show for it."
In December 2019, a lawsuit gathered eight rejected medical cannabis applicants to put forth claims of procedural error. As that case kicked off, the state halted the licensing process entirely. Included in today’s ruling, the appeals court did overturn the rejection of ZY Labs, one of the original eight plaintiffs, and kicked the decision on that application back to the Department of Health. The other seven applicants in the legal case remained on the sidelines.
“This was a significant victory for ZY Labs,” said Lee Vartan, an attorney that represented the applicant, told NJ.com. “ZY Labs is confident in the strength of its application and looks forward to being awarded a license to cultivate medical marijuana in the central region.” New Jersey issues both cultivation and retail licenses, as well as a limited number of vertical licenses across the state.
As of now, only 13 dispensaries are operating in New Jersey (under the aegis of 10 licensed businesses). According to the state, those dispensaries are servicing about 100,000 registered patients.
Semi-relatedly, the state is working its way through the implementation of the voter-approved constitutional amendment to legalize adult-use cannabis. Action on a state bill to do just that is expected Feb. 19 from Gov. Phil Murphy.