Although New Jersey voters approved adult-use cannabis via Question 1 in the November 2020 election, they still have no place to legally buy it.
Among the four states that passed adult-use measures in that election, Arizona launched sales on Jan. 22, 2021, Montana launched sales on Jan. 1, 2022, South Dakota had its ballot amendment struck down, and New Jersey has missed multiple deadlines geared toward launching its licensed retail program.
Most recently, the Garden State missed a self-imposed Feb. 22 deadline to open dispensaries. But there was no enforcement mechanism for that date, which was more of a symbolic target to get the ball (and the joints) rolling.
Last month, the executive director of the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC), Jeff Brown, said there were still a lot of moving parts associated with the deadline, adding there was no firm commitment to meet that target.
It wasn’t the first deadline New Jersey missed, symbolic or otherwise. The CRC was scheduled to begin accepting and processing business license applications on Sept. 18, 2021, but had to delay that effort too.
Despite missing this week’s retail launch, Gov. Phil Murphy offered optimism that the forthcoming program is “within weeks” of medical cannabis dispensaries transitioning to offer products to adult-use shoppers.
“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 his radio show on WBGO in Newark. “They’ve got to prove they’ve got the supply for their medical customers.”
As the CRC continues to review applications for licenses, Brown said one of the factors holding up the retail launch includes a lack of confirmation from local municipalities, where officials must provide in writing that they support the medical cannabis cultivators and dispensaries in their communities transitioning to the adult-use market, NJ.com reported.
There are 11 companies with 23 retail locations selling cannabis to the state’s 120,000-plus registered patients, according to CRC.
“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,” Brown said during a meeting last month. “We need the industry to get there.”