New Jersey residents hoping to buy marijuana at a dispensary without a medical card will have to wait a little longer.
New Jersey cannabis regulators approved the first batch of businesses that will make up the state’s adult-use cannabis industry on Thursday, a cohort of 68 marijuana growers and manufacturers. But officials decided that the state’s medical marijuana companies are not quite ready to start selling their wares to the general public.
Growers and manufacturers were picked as the first recipients of the 68 licenses to help boost production and expedite the launch of the recreational market. And in response to questions about its commitment to promoting equity in the legal cannabis industry, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission released a breakdown of the ownership of these firms that are receiving conditional approval.
State officials have been under pressure to open up the recreational market in New Jersey since missing the original Feb. 22 deadline. But the state didn’t begin accepting applications for retail licenses until March 15th. That means it can either wait to sift through those applicants or allow existing medical marijuana companies, which already grow their own cannabis and operate dispensaries, to kick off recreational sales.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy hinted at the end of February that recreational sales could start this month. But that is now unlikely.
So far, eight medical marijuana companies have applied to begin recreational sales. But they don’t currently meet the requirements to do so, according to Jeff Brown, executive director of New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
At a meeting of the commission Thursday, Brown said that there were a range of concerns, including whether companies would be able to produce enough supply to meet demand from the public while continuing to serve their patients. The commission also expressed concern over whether medical marijuana sellers had a plan in place for ensuring patients could physically access cannabis if dispensaries become too crowded. He said that a few appeared to have enough supply, but that regulators also had questions about whether applicants were meeting other requirements such as establishing labor peace agreements with unions.
“We are confident in our ability to collaborate to fix these issues and work together to get this market off the ground quickly,” Brown said at the meeting.
He added that state officials would work with the eight companies to remedy any issues over the next couple of weeks before reconsidering their applications.
The New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association said in a statement that it was “disappointed” with the decision but optimistic that sales would start sooner than later.
“When it comes down to it, it’s New Jersey’s citizens who are missing out,” the Association said, before adding that, “We continue to look forward to working side-by-side with the CRC to ensure a seamless transition to recreational sales for all parties.”