New Jersey Recreational Pot Sales Hit $24 Million in the First Month

New Jersey state officials announced this week that purchases of recreational cannabis hit $24 million in the first month of sales, despite only a dozen stores being licensed to sell adult-use cannabis. The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission, the state’s marijuana regulatory agency, also revealed on Tuesday that six more dispensaries will be authorized to sell recreational cannabis soon, increasing the number of retailers statewide by half.

“It’s really only a beginning, and I think it shows that there’s a lot of growth left in this market,” said Jeff Brown, the commission’s executive director.

New Jersey voters approved a referendum to legalize recreational cannabis in 2020, and state lawmakers approved legislation to regulate the state’s adult-use market in August 2021. On April 11, the commission announced that it had authorized seven companies to begin sales of recreational pot at a total of 13 dispensaries. On April 21, sales began at 12 of the locations, with the last launching adult-use cannabis about two weeks later.

At a meeting of the commission on Tuesday, officials said that the first month’s sales total of $24 million will surely increase as more licensed businesses begin operations.

“We do anticipate that this will ramp particularly as new dispensaries are approved, new cultivators are approved, and a lot of the conditional applicants that we have approved are able to come back and convert to annual licenses and begin operating,” Brown said.

Retail Pot Market Just Getting Started

Sharon Ali, Mid-Atlantic regional general manager at multi-state cannabis cultivator and retailer Acreage Holdings, agreed that New Jersey’s legal recreational weed market is just getting started.

“With only twelve operational adult-use dispensaries open, New Jersey has already seen $24 million in sales—a strong indicator of incredible potential as more adult-use retailers are approved,” Ali wrote in an email to High Times. “At the current rate of adult-use demand, we project to almost double our store traffic per month.”

Considering that New Jersey adult-use sales are projected to reach $2.4 billion by 2026, we know that this is only the beginning,” Ali continued. “To accommodate this increase in foot traffic, The Botanist in Williamstown and Egg Harbor Township have both proactively hired talent and anticipate increasing staff by 25%. We are excited to see labor and economic opportunities take off in New Jersey as we enter a new era of cannabis legalization.”

Jane Technologies, a cannabis e-commerce platform, reported that cannabis flower generated 49% of New Jersey’s recreational pot sales between April 21 and May 21, while 10% of sales were rung up for pre-rolled joints. On the day of launch, adult-use cannabis accounted for 86% of the state’s total pot sales, with only 14% going to medicinal cannabis.

Cannabis market data analyst Headset reported that based on the first week of sales in the Garden State and data from other states, New Jersey’s total annual cannabis market size is estimated to be worth between $1.3 billion and $2.9 billion.

New Dispensary Licenses Approved in New Jersey

The Cannabis Control Commission also reported on Tuesday that it had approved new licenses for cannabis businesses, including authorization for six dispensaries to begin sales of recreational weed soon. Regulators issued approval for three stores to be operated by Ayr Wellness, and one each for Ascend and TerrAscend.

“We are thrilled to be approved for adult-use sales in New Jersey and to have all three dispensaries cleared simultaneously to open for adult-use,” Jonathan Sandelman, founder and CEO of Ayr, said in a statement from the company. “To date, Central Jersey has the lowest number of dispensaries per capita, leaving its population under-served compared with the rest of the state. New Jersey is expected to become a highly influential state for the U.S. cannabis industry, and we are honored to help shape the market landscape from its early stages.”

The commission also approved licenses for 46 smaller cannabis cultivators, retailers, and manufacturers, bringing the total of such enterprises approved by New Jersey regulators in recent months to 148. Most of the businesses, however, will take up to a year or more to begin operations.

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More Than 12,000 Show for New Jersey First Day of Legal Weed Sales

More than 12,000 customers turned out last Thursday when New Jersey kicked off recreational cannabis sales for the first time, the state reported this week. 

The figures come via the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which said that 12,438 customers turned out for the grand opening, generating a total of nearly $1.9 million in adult-use cannabis sales.

“We expected sales to be substantial and the data shows that the market is effectively serving both adult-use consumers and patients,” Jeff Brown, executive director of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission, said in a statement. “We continue to monitor inventory and access for patients and are prepared to take enforcement action against any [medical cannabis dispensary] that does not meet the requirements for patient access and supply.”

The Cannabis Regulatory Commission said that although “lines have been steady at all the dispensaries, there has not been any substantiated reports of supply problems for medicinal cannabis patients,” and that it “continues to monitor and respond to complaints to ensure patients have adequate supply and access.”

In addition, the commission, which “establishes and enforces the rules and regulations governing the licensing, cultivation, testing, selling, and purchasing of cannabis in the state,” said that sales of “medicinal cannabis products have also been strong over the last 30 days with approximately 64,000 ounces of products dispensed to patients and their caregivers.”

Only a dozen dispensaries were cleared to begin sales at the opening—which fell the day after 420—after the state repeatedly missed deadlines and pushed back the launch. 

The Cannabis Regulatory Commission earlier this month signed off on the dispensaries that would be eligible to sell recreational cannabis on opening day. All of those first adult-use dispensaries were existing medical cannabis businesses.

The New York Times reported then that “each of the cannabis companies had demonstrated that they had enough supply for both medical and recreational customers,” and that if “they fall short of that requirement, they risk daily fines of up to $10,000.”

Moreover, The Times reported that the approved cannabis businesses “also had to show that they had a strategy for ensuring that patients are not edged out by the expected flood of new customers during the early days of legal sales in the densely populated region.”

According to the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, there have been no supply shortages after the first week of adult-use sales.

The commission said last week on the first day of sales that while “lines were long in some locations,” it only had to “investigate only a few minor complaints,” and that no “significant patient access issues or supply shortages have been reported.”

“We encourage everyone to be safe by buying only from licensed dispensaries and by starting low and going slow—especially those who are new to cannabis or who haven’t consumed cannabis in a long time,” Brown said in a statement at the time. “Also, remember that the laws against impaired driving apply to being high. Our guests from neighboring states should remember it is illegal to transport cannabis across state lines.”

It has not been all smooth sailing for New Jersey’s new cannabis program, however. Sales were initially supposed to launch in February, but that deadline came and went.

At that time, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, said that he believed sales were close.

“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. “They’ve got to prove they’ve got the supply for their medical customers. I hope shortly thereafter, the standalone recreational marijuana operators.”

But after March passed with no launch, Nick Scutari, the president of the New Jersey State Senate, said he wanted some answers.

Calling the delays “totally unacceptable,” Scutari said he intends to spearhead a special committee to investigate the state’s troubled cannabis launch.

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New Jersey Adult-Use Sales Finally Slated to Launch

More than a year after voters there approved a referendum to legalize recreational pot, and following a series of delays to the launch of the regulated market, adult-use cannabis sales are finally set to begin in New Jersey in the coming weeks. 

On Monday, the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission “gave seven medical-marijuana companies approval to start selling their products to all adults,” the New York Times reported, which sets the stage for recreational sales to begin at those businesses within the next month. 

Per the Times, recreational, adult-use sales “are permitted to start as soon as each of the seven companies pays upward of $1 million in fees associated with the expanded licenses and satisfies other bureaucratic requirements to gain final approval.” 

In total, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission “authorized 13 individual dispensaries, which will be scattered throughout New Jersey, including several that are within a half-hour drive of New York City,” according to the Times, although the “exact timing for the first legal sales and the locations of each of the 13 medical-marijuana dispensaries remains unclear.”

“The path to get there does not have to be any specific length of time,” said Jeff Brown, executive director of the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission, as quoted by the Times. “It doesn’t have to be 30 days. It can be less. It can be more.”

The breakthrough for the commission on Monday ended frustratingly for New Jersey officials and lawmakers who were trying to get the state’s adult-use cannabis market off the ground. 

In 2020, 67% of voters in the state approved a ballot question to legalize cannabis for adults aged 21 and older. But the ensuing 16 months were beset by delays and setbacks as the Garden State tried to iron out rules for the new regulated cannabis market. 

The Cannabis Regulatory Commission did not begin accepting applications from prospective cannabis businesses until November — two months later than when the panel was supposed to start the application period. 

In February, after the state missed a deadline for the regulated market to launch, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy indicated that cannabis sales would start within a month.

“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, a Democrat, said at the time. “They’ve got to prove they’ve got the supply for their medical customers. I hope shortly thereafter, the standalone recreational marijuana operators.”

But after March passed with no recreational sales, some legalization advocates in New Jersey wanted answers.

Nick Scutari, the president of the New Jersey State Senate, said recently that he intends to start a special committee that will look into why the recreational market has taken so long to launch.

Scutari says that he wants “explanations on the repeated hold-ups in expanding medical dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana and in the opening of retail facilities for adult-use cannabis,” and to determine “what can be done to meet the demands and reduce the costs of medical marijuana.”

“These delays are totally unacceptable,” Scutari said in a statement. “We need to get the legal marijuana market up and running in New Jersey. This has become a failure to follow through on the public mandate and to meet the expectations for new businesses and consumers.”

With Monday’s vote by the Cannabis Regulatory Commision, the launch may finally be near for New Jersey. 

According to the Times, the commission said that each of the businesses that won approval on Monday “had demonstrated that they had enough supply for both medical and recreational customers,” and that they had shown “they had a strategy for ensuring that patients are not edged out by the expected flood of new customers during the early days of legal sales in the densely populated region.”

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New Jersey Regulators Delay Launch of Recreational Pot Sales

New Jersey regulators last week declined to award retail cannabis licenses to eight medical dispensaries seeking to sell adult-use cannabis, delaying the expected launch of recreational pot sales in the state for at least weeks. The delay, which reportedly surprised cannabis industry insiders, came less than a month after New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said that recreational sales were expected to begin “within weeks.”

At a meeting of the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) on Thursday, executive director Jeff Brown said that the agency wants the eight alternative treatment centers (ATCs), as medical cannabis dispensaries are called in New Jersey, to submit plans specifying how the businesses will ensure there is enough cannabis for patients when recreational sales begin.

“We may not be 100% there today, but I assure you we will get there,” Brown said on March 24, as quoted by NJ.com. “We have a few things to address and when we address them I’m happy to return to this body with a further update.”

The commission then voted 5-0 to table the recreational sales licenses for the eight businesses until a later date.

Ensuring a Supply of Cannabis for New Jersey Patients

Brown said that the commission is concerned that the dispensaries will not have enough cannabis for medical patients, estimating that the market could be short up to 100,000 pounds of cannabis to meet the needs of both recreational customers and patients. Brown added that the CRC would conduct site visits to the applicants to make sure that they will be able to handle the new influx of customers, noting the commission wanted the businesses to have separate entrances and service lines for patients and recreational customers.

“Our goal is to work with the industry and the industry to work with us so at the very next CRC meeting we have a cohort of ATCs that are turn-key to launch this market here, simply pending a vote by this commission,” Brown said. “If for any that are still not there, hopefully [they’ll be] ready for conditional approval pending certain timelines and regulatory milestones that we can work to get done.”

Senate President Nicholas Scutari, who led the drive to legalize medical and recreational cannabis in the New Jersey legislature, expressed frustration after the CRC announced the delay.

“Totally unacceptable,” Scutari wrote in a text message to NJ Advance Media. “The Senate is weighing its options with regard to oversight.”

Representatives of the state’s cannabis industry were also displeased by the setback. The New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association said in a statement that it “remains optimistic that the CRC will sooner rather than later open the adult-use cannabis market in New Jersey, though we admit to being disappointed with today’s decision to further continue its delay.”

“In November 2020, New Jerseyans made it very clear that they wanted a safe and legal adult-use cannabis marketplace in the state,” the trade group added. “It goes without saying that no one could have foreseen that some 16 months later, we would still be waiting to see this come to fruition.”

The CRC did, however, approve conditional licenses for 68 adult-use cannabis cultivators and manufacturers. The licenses, which were approved as a social equity measure, are designed to ensure a path into New Jersey’s recreational cannabis market for small businesses.

“This is a historic action that the Board is proposed to take with these first conditional licenses to sell adult-use recreational cannabis in the state of New Jersey,” Brown said before the board voted to approve the conditional licenses. “I am humbled to make this announcement.”

“These are the first businesses to get a foot forward in the state of New Jersey,” he added. “I cannot stress that enough.”

Governor Still Says Adult-Use Sales Will Begin in Weeks

Last month, after the CRC failed to meet a self-imposed deadline to launch recreational cannabis sales, Murphy said that he expected the delay would be short-lived.

“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 last month on his WBGO Newark radio show. “They’ve got to prove they’ve got the supply for their medical customers. I hope shortly thereafter, the standalone recreational marijuana operators.”

After the CRC announced its most recent delay of adult-use sales last week, Murphy reiterated that recreational cannabis sales would begin imminently.

“The way this is supposed to work, and it is working this way: If a medical dispensary can prove it has more than enough supply for its medical customers, it’s at least eligible,” Murphy said.

“Assuming it meets all the other requirements, it should be deemed eligible,” the governor added. “I believe it will still be a matter of weeks. It’s not gonna be months.”

The CRC did not indicate how long the latest delay would last, although the agency posted a notice of a special meeting scheduled for April 11.

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New Jersey Gets More Than 170 Cannabis Dispensary Applications On First Day

New Jersey began accepting applications on Tuesday from individuals hoping to get in on the ground floor of the state’s coming recreational cannabis industry. By day’s end, state regulators had attracted plenty of interest.

NJ.com reported that the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission said that by 4 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, it had received 172 applications from individuals interested in opening a cannabis retail store.

“Today is the day where the CRC (Cannabis Regulatory Commission) portal opens and applicants who wish to apply for a retail license to sell cannabis … are allowed to do so,” said Michael DeLoreto, a director at Gibbons’ Government and Regulatory Affairs Department, as quoted by NJ.com. “This is a day that a lot of businesses have been waiting for.”

New Jersey voters legalized recreational adult-use cannabis in 2020 when they approved a ballot measure (three other states –– Montana, Arizona and South Dakota –– likewise passed legalization proposals at the ballot that year).

In December, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission began accepting applications for recreational cannabis cultivators, manufacturers and testing labs. The commission said that by early afternoon on the first day of the application period, “the application platform was averaging 155 new users per hour.”

Within the first four hours, the commission said that it had received applications from nearly 500 individuals.

“We are happy to reach this milestone,” Jeff Brown, executive director of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, said at the time. “Applications are coming in, the platform is performing well, and we can officially mark the launch of the state’s recreational cannabis industry. Getting cultivators, manufacturers, and testing labs licensed and operating will set the framework and establish supply for retailers who will start licensing in March 2022.”

Late last month, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, said that he believed adult-use sales would begin “within weeks.”

“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 at the time. “They’ve got to prove they’ve got the supply for their medical customers. I hope shortly thereafter, the standalone recreational marijuana operators.”

Along those lines, NJ.com reported that Tuesday “also marked the day when the state panel expected to finish reviewing applications from eight of about [a] dozen alternative treatment centers that sell medical marijuana and are looking to the expand to the recreational market.”

The Cannabis Regulatory Commission has said that it is prioritizing applications from “designated target communities, for people with cannabis convictions (expunged or not), and for minorities, women, and disabled veterans.”

The three groups that will receive priority consideration from the commission are “minority-owned, woman-owned, or disabled veteran-owned,” businesses “owned by people who have lived in an Economically Disadvantaged Area of the state, or who have convictions for cannabis-related offenses (expunged or not),” and businesses “located in an Impact Zone, owned by people from an Impact Zone, or employing residents of Impact Zones.”

Expanding access to the cannabis industry for disadvantaged groups has become a common feature of recreational laws across the country. New York announced last week that at least 100 of the first licenses for adult-use cannabis retailers in the state will be designated for individuals convicted of a previous cannabis-related offense, or a family member of someone with a cannabis-related offense.

Tremaine Wright, chair of the Cannabis Control Board in New York, said last month that the state is trying to “build a supportive ecosystem that allows people to participate no matter their economic background and we want everyone to know they have a real opportunity at a license as well as support so that their businesses will be ongoing enterprises that are successful and have the opportunity for growth.”

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New Jersey Begins Accepting Applications for Recreational Cannabis Licenses

The state of New Jersey has finally begun to accept applications for recreational cannabis licenses on December 15. The Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) announced that within the first four hours of applications opening, 500 people had already submitted their applications, with 635 accounts created by the end of the day.

“We are happy to reach this milestone,” said Jeff Brown, CRC executive director. “Applications are coming in, the platform is performing well, and we can officially mark the launch of the state’s recreational cannabis industry. Getting cultivators, manufacturers, and testing labs licensed and operating will set the framework and establish supply for retailers who will start licensing in March 2022.”

The CRC also noted that highest priority would be given to “Social Equity Businesses, diversely-owned businesses, microbusinesses, and conditional license applicants” when being reviewed. This includes applicants who were previously convicted for cannabis crimes, live in “economically disadvantaged areas” or fit the criteria of minority, women or disabled-veteran owned businesses.

Following Governor Phil Murphy signing three cannabis bills earlier this year in February, the CRC created the Office of Minority, Disabled Veterans, and Women Business Development in order to follow through with the promise of supporting diversity. A category was specifically created for Social Equity Business applicants as well, which includes “people who have lived in an economically disadvantaged area or who have convictions for cannabis-related offenses. Those areas are defined as places where individuals earn 80 percent or less of the state median household income ($90,444), and also have an uninsured rate of one to one-and-a-half times more than rates throughout the state, according to NJ.com.

The CRC held a New Jersey State League of Municipalities Conference in Atlantic City in mid-November to discuss the details of this process. There, CRC Chair Dianna Houenou confirmed that accepted applications with either be granted a conditional or annual license.

“The annual license is the bread and butter of what we typically think of when someone is applying for a license. It gives business owners the authority to operate the cannabis operation year round,” said Houenou. “The conditional license is meant to give applicants extra time to get all of their ducks in a row… They then have 120 days to meet the additional requirements for the annual license.”

Houenou also spoke about how conditional license applications would be prioritized over annual licenses. “If you look across the country, historically you can see how the need for property control has posed a barrier for a number of applicants looking to operate [a cannabis] business… We decided to lessen that burden as much as we could.” 

Despite the promises of fair consideration for diversity for recreational cannabis licensing, there has been some concern about considerations for the medical cannabis grower licenses recently. According to NJ Advance Media, most of the recently awarded licenses went to white women, leading some applicants to question if they actually received any extra “points” for being a minority applicant during the scoring process. Brown addressed the concern. “In the eight months since the CRC was established, we have completed key tasks started under the Department of Health to increase supply and provide additional access for patients in the medicinal market,” he said. “Now we have begun accepting recreational cannabis business applications under our new rules which prioritize equity.”

Al Harrington, former NBA athlete and owner of Viola Brands was one of the minority applicants that did not receive a New Jersey license. Harrington’s application writer, Jamil Taylor explained to NJ.com how difficult it is for Black-owned businesses to grow in the cannabis space. “It’s sad how they’ve structured the process, but that goes to show how valuable these licenses are,” Taylor said. “They’re limiting vertical integration, but they’ve already given vertical integration to the majority white companies.”

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New Jersey Lawmakers Double Cannabis Dispensary Licenses

Regulators in New Jersey on Tuesday moved to award 30 new licenses for new medical cannabis dispensaries, a significant expansion of a program that has seen slow growth.

The state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission voted to “more than [double] the number of retail locations for a growing pool of patients who for years complained about long commutes to obtain legal cannabis,” NJ.com reported.

The regulatory panel distributed the 30 licenses evenly throughout the Garden State, awarding “10 each in the central, northern and southern regions of the state,” according to the website.

The expansion will result in a significant uptick to the 23 dispensaries currently serving patients throughout the state. Those stores serve “an average of 5,300 patients per retail site,” NJ.com reported, and there “are about 5,000 patients enrolling every month—a pace that has not abated even with the prospect of a legal market for adult users opening in 2022.”

In October, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission “accepted the recommendation to approve 14 of the 2019 medicinal cannabis business applications that had been previously held up due to a court-ordered stay of the review process,” with “10 applications for cultivation permits and four applications for vertically integrated permits” approved to “begin preparations to serve New Jersey’s medicinal cannabis patients.” Due to increased patient need, “five more cultivation permits were awarded than had been planned in 2019,” the commission said.

“The current alternative treatment centers have not kept pace with patient need,” said Dianna Houenou, the chairwoman of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission. “We constantly hear from patients that prices are too high and that there are too few dispensaries with too few product options. The situation has not changed with the legalization of recreational cannabis. Our priority is to our patients and increasing the planned number of medicinal cannabis operators in the market will greatly benefit them.” 

Last year, New Jersey voters approved a constitutional amendment at the ballot legalizing recreational cannabis use for adults. NJ.com reported that while the 30 licenses approved on Tuesday are for medical cannabis dispensaries, if those businesses so choose, “they will have a head start in expanding their customer base to adults 21 and over once the legal market opens some time in 2022.”

Despite the voters’ approval of the amendment, “a bill outlining the legitimate market did not reach Governor Phil Murphy’s desk until February,” the website explained, and the commission “did not introduce the first round of regulations needed to run until August.”

The commission “will start accepting applications for the adult-use market from cultivators, manufacturers and testing labs for the recreational market on December 15, and from dispensaries on March 15,” according to the website.

In February, Murphy signed a bill officially ending the prohibition on pot in New Jersey.

“Our current marijuana prohibition laws have failed every test of social justice, which is why for years I’ve strongly supported the legalization of adult-use cannabis. Maintaining a status quo that allows tens of thousands, disproportionately people of color, to be arrested in New Jersey each year for low-level drug offenses is unjust and indefensible,” Murphy said in a statement after signing the legislation into law. 

“This November, New Jerseyans voted overwhelmingly in support of creating a well-regulated adult-use cannabis market. Although this process has taken longer than anticipated, I believe it is ending in the right place and will ultimately serve as a national model.”

The new law, Murphy said, “will establish an industry that brings equity and economic opportunity to our communities, while establishing minimum standards for safe products and allowing law enforcement to focus their resources on real public safety matters.”

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