The decision by the Cannabis Regulatory Commission last week to delay recreational marijuana sales at medical dispensaries is not sitting well with everyone. Senate President Nick Scutari, who sponsored both the medical and recreational cannabis laws, called the decision “totally unacceptable” and is planning to form a special legislative committee to review the delay.
Instead of awarding several widely-anticipated licenses for recreational marijuana sales, New Jersey regulators kicked the cannabis license issue down the road again today. The Cannabis Regulatory Commission voted to table a motion that could have expanded adult-use licenses to eight major alternative treatment centers — or ATCs — that already offer medical marijuana. Regulators expressed concerns about producing enough recreational products and also jobs to people victimized by the war on drugs, and mostly about preserving patient safety for medicinal users.
Another feature of New Jersey’s legalization effort designed to level the playing field for small-business applicants is the creation of conditional licenses. That gives an applicant approved by the cannabis commission 120 days to find a town and a property where the business can locate.
With a conditional license in hand, an applicant might be able to attract money from investors or “a town might roll out the red carpet because it wants a winner as opposed to an applicant,” said William Caruso, managing director at Archer Public Affairs, a lobbying firm.
Dozens of business owners hoping to sell medical marijuana in New Jersey say they’re fed up. After they applied for licenses to sell in 2019, the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission has yet to give them approval.
The commission held a public meeting Tuesday night where they approved another grow site for Harmony Foundation, a medical marijuana dispensary, which already operates a facility in Secaucus.
The long-awaited launch of New Jersey’s legal marijuana program is finally in view. Regulators recently agreed on rules and regulations for the industry as they prepare to open the application process for the licensing of new businesses. But only about 30% of towns in the state have opted in for recreational pot.
Bill Caruso, an attorney and New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform steering committee member, said he’s “very confident” medical marijuana patients will soon gain approval to grow perhaps up to six plants at home for their own use.
“The ability to allow patients the function of achieving the relief they need through some limited medical home grow isn’t really scary any more to a lot of people,” Caruso said.
A big part of the problem is what to with people under age 21 who get busted for pot. Bill Caruso, a founding member of the advocacy group New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform, says there are very valid concerns from members of the Black and Latino caucuses about the enforcement of marijuana laws that have disproportionately targeted people in minority communities.
"It comes down to trust, and I think there’s a lack of trust," Caruso said. "They have seen on full display the unfortunate and biased treatment of minorities in the eyes of the law."
Let’s start with the first cannabis question on everyone’s mind: How soon will people be able to buy legal recreational marijuana in New Jersey?
I suspect this time next year will be the earliest you’ll be able to walk in and buy recreational cannabis at a retailer or order online for home delivery in New Jersey.
Can small businesses and mom-and-pops without previous experience join in the green rush? The law calls for 37 initial licensees.
One month after New Jersey voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum to legalize recreational marijuana, Scott Rudder is stepping down as president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association to pursue other opportunities.
He will be replaced by Edmund DeVeaux, a veteran public affairs official and former aide to U.S. Senator Bill Bradley.
On the general election ballot in November, voters will be asked if they want to legalize recreational marijuana in New Jersey. A Monmouth University poll from April shows 61% of residents are in favor, but advocates on both sides say it’s not a done deal.
“It’s really promising, but there’s a lot of work to do. Educating people that there is a ballot question is important,” said Bill Caruso with NJ United for Marijuana Reform.