Not since the mid-1970s, the dawn of legalized casino gaming, has Atlantic City seen an opportunity for the growth of a new industry. Kashawn McKinley, director of constituent services and special projects for Atlantic City, says the same city that attracts tourists with its casinos and headline concerts is working to become a cannabis hub for the region.
Around the state, many so-called legacy operators — people who sold weed on the black market — are having difficulty getting approval from municipalities, even after they’ve been given state approval.
In Trenton Wednesday, advocates demanded justice for those hit hardest by the war on drugs. As the state’s recreational cannabis industry takes off, advocates of drug policy reform are reminding lawmakers of the promises made to reinvest tax revenue from legalized sales of recreational marijuana in communities where marijuana-related arrests have been highest.
An adult-use dispensary in Burlington County originally set to open for recreational use Friday had to pull out last minute due to a discrepancy with the town.
Curaleaf, which also operates an adult-use dispensary in Bellmawr in Camden County, says it’s still working with the municipality in Edgewater Park
The doors have been open at the state’s first dozen legal recreational marijuana dispensaries for about three weeks now, but it could be a long time before residents see more businesses like them.
New Jersey may not see recreational marijuana-inspired attractions for a while, but the state has already seen consumers cross state lines to legally buy recreational marijuana, and insiders say that's a type of cannabis tourism.
"The law will permit dispensaries that have licensed to create a lounge off of that dispensary. That will create an opportunity for people to come from other places to utilize cannabis in a legal safe environment," says John Fanburg, of Brach Eichler Cannabis Industry Practice.
Industry analysts say that it’s just the beginning of what is set to become very big business, not just in New Jersey, but in New York as well, and throughout the Northeast. A notable portion of the potentially mammoth profits are slated to benefit communities, mostly of color, that have been disproportionally impacted by marijuana arrests over the years.
On Tuesday Starbucks workers, along with recently unionized cannabis dispensary workers, met with prominent labor leaders and Gov. Phil Murphy.
Legal marijuana for recreational use has been on the market for just over a week in New Jersey, and the sales keep on growing. Some 12,000 people bought on opening day, spending $2 million. We visited two dispensaries, Zen Leaf in Elizabeth and Ascend in Rochelle Park, to see how they’re faring.
More than 12,000 recreational cannabis customers bought products on April 21, the first day of legal sales in New Jersey. They spent just shy of $2 million, according to the state Cannabis Regulatory Commission. But several mayors and lawmakers are getting behind an effort to bar cannabis use for off-duty police officers.
Getting a state license to sell recreational cannabis is only the beginning in NJ. Towns can play a crucial role in how well a business thrives -- or whether it opens its doors at all.