A state lawmaker who visited Colorado and saw how the first state to sell legal recreational cannabis deals with motorists driving under the influence wants to create a marijuana enforcement division under the state Attorney General’s Office.
Assemblywoman Shanique Speight (D-Essex) said she wants the new division to compile data to give law enforcement officers some clarity on the state’s cannabis law, which she said has left them confused over when they can and can’t charge drivers with a marijuana offense.
David Cruz talks with Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth) about why he’s calling for the end of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission & who should regulate the industry going forward.
“The market is developing, and we don’t want to hinder that. The New Jersey canopy is currently only 418,000 square feet—far below the average of other states with legal cannabis,” said Commissioner Maria Del Cid-Kosso. “New Jersey currently has only one cultivation license for every 197,000 residents. The national average is one license for every 31,000 residents. We have a lot of room to grow. We expect that lifting the cap will open the space for more cultivators, ultimately resulting in more favorable pricing and better access for patients and other consumers.”
The medical cannabis dispensary has already been open for business at 546 Park Ave.
And on Wednesday, Mayor Kevin A. Kane and Councilmember Annette Hawley Jordan joined Sen. Vin Gopal in cutting the ribbon at the dispensary's grand opening.
The business will not only bring jobs and new tax revenue to the borough, but also serves a medical need.
The grand opening of NJ Leaf medical cannabis dispensary is this Wednesday, March 15, at 11 a.m., offering another Monmouth County location for the purchase of medical marijuana.
NJ Leaf is a medical dispensary located at 546 Park Ave. in the borough and is locally owned.
The event will be attended by Mayor Kevin Kane and State Sen. Vin Gopal. There is additional event parking at CKO Kickboxing, 536 Park Ave., the facility says.
NJ Leaf, along with borough and other officials, broke ground in August 2022 on the company's site.
But as the state’s recreational industry revs up, neither Senate President Sweeney nor Sen. Nick Scutari – the legislative doyen of legal marijuana – has thrown his support behind Gopal’s bill. To get some answers why the bill has stalled, Dave D’Alessandro of the Star-Ledger Editorial Board spoke with Gopal, and what follows is an edited version of that discussion:
Q. State the case for allowing home grown marijuana, particularly for medical patients.
Of the states with a legal weed program, New Jersey is the only one that bans growing marijuana plants at home. State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth) introduced a bill that would allow those age 21 and older to grow a set amount on their own.
It is “no small task,” commission Chairwomen Dianna Houenou said during Monday’s inaugural meeting, adding that New Jersey can provide the nation a model for legalization “by applying the values of safety and equity.”
In an earlier interview with NJ Spotlight News, Houenou promised to “instill a culture where every decision we make is through the lens of equity.”
And the clock is ticking.
“Now, this will take time,” Houenou cautioned. “It will take us several weeks before we develop procedures to guide our operations and hire full-time staff.”
Gopal is not sure why home grown was not part of the legalization but given the overwhelming support the question received he believes it needs to be included.
"Homegrown is true legalization. That's what the people of New Jersey voted on. To legalize this, to move on from this topic and we can focus our criminal justice tax dollars on violent criminals and not non-violent offenders," Gopal said. "It's obviously also important for medical patients who can't travel, giving residents of New Jersey that choice."
“So to truly legalize cannabis home growers should be an option, “Gopal said. “It’s no different than other states like California who have adopted this… . The reality is, as a country and as a state, we’ve spent billions of dollars on the failed war on drugs. And this is just one piece of making sure that it’s truly legalized.”
Police can no longer arrest people for possessing marijuana but there is no legal way to buy it right now. Marijuana industry expert Mike McQueeny says this could be a quicker way to access legal weed. Setting up dispensaries will take longer.