New Jersey Regulator Grilled at Hearing Over Sluggish Adult-Use Weed Launch

The top cannabis regulator in New Jersey faced tough questioning on Thursday during a marathon hearing that looked into the oft-delayed rollout of the state’s adult-use weed program.

Jeff Brown, executive director of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing that reportedly lasted five hours.

The hearing came less than a month after recreational cannabis sales kicked off in the Garden State, a launch that was typified by one delay after another.

The troubled launch prompted Nicholas Scutari, the president of the New Jersey state Senate, to call for the hearings back in March.

“I’m confident that if we did not start this process, the adult weed market would still not be open in New Jersey,” Scutari, a Democrat who pushed for cannabis legalization for years, said at the hearing on Thursday, as quoted by NJ.com.

The hearing also featured “industry leaders and marijuana advocates [who] discussed the pace of setting up the Garden State’s recreational market, scrutinized pricing issues, and griped over still-unwritten regulations for employers seeking clarity on when they can and can’t discipline employees who use cannabis,” according to the New Jersey Monitor.

NJ.com reported that Wesley McWhite, the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission’s director of diversity and inclusion, also testified with Brown.

Legal adult-use cannabis sales began in New Jersey last month, drawing more than 12,000 customers who generated almost $1.9 million in sales on the first day.

But that grand opening came after the state had pushed back the launch.

In February, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said the state was hopefully “within weeks” of its first adult-use sales.

But in March, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission pushed back the scheduled launch of sales after opting against awarding licenses to several would-be dispensaries.

“We may not be 100% there today, but I assure you we will get there,” Brown said following that delay. “We have a few things to address and when we address them I’m happy to return to this body with a further update.”

That was the last straw for Scutari, who said at the time that he planned to hold special legislative hearings to look into the delays.

“These delays are totally unacceptable,” Scutari said in a statement at the time. “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.”

In calling for the hearings, Scutari said he wanted “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 learn “what can be done to meet the demands and reduce the costs of medical marijuana.”

On Thursday, Brown, according to NJ.com, “said the CRC delayed issuing licenses in March over fears there would not be enough supply of marijuana for both the medical and recreational markets.”

The New Jersey Monitor reported that the “lack of edibles in the Garden State was also a topic Thursday,” noting that “people can find flower, oils that can be vaped or ingested, and limited gummies” in dispensaries.

According to the publication, “edibles like cookies and brownies aren’t allowed under the current law, Brown noted, and any change to that would need to be approved by the Legislature.”

“There are ingestible avenues to purchase and consume, and we hope to expand those in the future. I don’t have a specific timeline,” Brown said, as quoted by the Monitor.

Per the Monitor, Scutari replied: “I’ll call you on that.”

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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 AG Says Cops Can Legally Smoke Weed

A memo issued on Wednesday by acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin advises New Jersey law enforcement agencies that legislation passed to legalize cannabis last year allows adults, including police officers, to purchase and consume cannabis.

In his memo, Platkin wrote that law enforcement agencies in the state “may not take any adverse action against any officers because they do or do not use cannabis off duty.” The acting attorney general added that the right of police officers to use pot is consistent with the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act passed by state lawmakers last year. He also noted that police officers may not use cannabis while working or be under the influence of cannabis while on the job.

“To be clear, there should be zero tolerance for cannabis use, possession or intoxication while performing the duties of a law enforcement officer,” Platkin wrote in the memo obtained by the Asbury Park Press. “And there should be zero tolerance for unregulated marijuana consumption by officers at any time, on or off duty, while employed in this state. The safety of our communities and our officers demands no less.”

Brian Vicente, founding partner of cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg, said that Platkin’s memo is consistent with the legal standard of equal protection for all.

“Law enforcement officials should enjoy the same rights and legal protections as other New Jersey adults,” Vicente wrote in an email to High Times. “Those who choose to consume cannabis responsibly while off duty should be treated the same as those who choose to consume alcohol while off duty.”

New Jersey’s cannabis legalization law includes provisions that allow employers to maintain a drug-free workplace for their employees. The legislation also establishes procedures for employers to follow if an employee is suspected of using cannabis while at work or being under the influence at the workplace. Platkin reminded law enforcement officials that police have the same rights as others under the statute.

“Should there be reasonable suspicion of an officer’s use of cannabis while engaged in the performance of their duties, or upon finding any observable signs of intoxication related to cannabis use (including following a work-related accident subject to investigation by the agency), that officer may be required to undergo a drug test,” he wrote.

However, the drug test must also include a physical examination to confirm intoxication because THC metabolites can be detected weeks after someone has consumed cannabis, making a positive drug test an unreliable indicator of impairment.

Critics Fear Cops Will Be High While On Patrol

But critics have already come out to oppose the idea of cops using weed, even off the job. State Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer said that she is concerned that the policy will lead to police officers working while they are impaired by cannabis.

“Anyone who wants to work in public safety must be held to higher standards,” Sawyer told the New Jersey Monitor. “Our men and women in law enforcement have the responsibility to make life-altering decisions on a daily basis, for themselves, their partners, for the public. I want to trust that they are at their best when doing so.”

Governor Phil Murphy signed the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act into law in February 2021. The legislation legalized the possession of up to six ounces of cannabis for adults, although legal sales of adult-use cannabis have been delayed more than once while regulators create the rules for legal production and sales of recreational pot.

On Thursday, Murphy announced on social media that recreational pot sales will begin at some existing medical cannabis dispensaries next week, only one day after the infamous 4/20 weed holiday.

“This is a historic step in our work to create a new cannabis industry,” Murphy wrote on Twitter.

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission said it would post a list of the medical dispensaries that will begin selling adult-use cannabis on April 21 once the retailers have shared their plans with the agency.

“This is an exciting time for New Jersey,” said executive director Jeff Brown. “We have been intentional and deliberate to do everything in our power to set the market on good footing to start.”

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New Jersey AG Says Cops Can Legally Smoke Weed

A memo issued on Wednesday by acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin advises New Jersey law enforcement agencies that legislation passed to legalize cannabis last year allows adults, including police officers, to purchase and consume cannabis.

In his memo, Platkin wrote that law enforcement agencies in the state “may not take any adverse action against any officers because they do or do not use cannabis off duty.” The acting attorney general added that the right of police officers to use pot is consistent with the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act passed by state lawmakers last year. He also noted that police officers may not use cannabis while working or be under the influence of cannabis while on the job.

“To be clear, there should be zero tolerance for cannabis use, possession or intoxication while performing the duties of a law enforcement officer,” Platkin wrote in the memo obtained by the Asbury Park Press. “And there should be zero tolerance for unregulated marijuana consumption by officers at any time, on or off duty, while employed in this state. The safety of our communities and our officers demands no less.”

Brian Vicente, founding partner of cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg, said that Platkin’s memo is consistent with the legal standard of equal protection for all.

“Law enforcement officials should enjoy the same rights and legal protections as other New Jersey adults,” Sederberg wrote in an email to High Times. “Those who choose to consume cannabis responsibly while off duty should be treated the same as those who choose to consume alcohol while off duty.”

New Jersey’s cannabis legalization law includes provisions that allow employers to maintain a drug-free workplace for their employees. The legislation also establishes procedures for employers to follow if an employee is suspected of using cannabis while at work or being under the influence at the workplace. Platkin reminded law enforcement officials that police have the same rights as others under the statute.

“Should there be reasonable suspicion of an officer’s use of cannabis while engaged in the performance of their duties, or upon finding any observable signs of intoxication related to cannabis use (including following a work-related accident subject to investigation by the agency), that officer may be required to undergo a drug test,” he wrote.

However, the drug test must also include a physical examination to confirm intoxication because THC metabolites can be detected weeks after someone has consumed cannabis, making a positive drug test an unreliable indicator of impairment.

Critics Fear Cops Will Be High While On Patrol

But critics have already come out to oppose the idea of cops using weed, even off the job. State Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer said that she is concerned that the policy will lead to police officers working while they are impaired by cannabis.

“Anyone who wants to work in public safety must be held to higher standards,” Sawyer told the New Jersey Monitor. “Our men and women in law enforcement have the responsibility to make life-altering decisions on a daily basis, for themselves, their partners, for the public. I want to trust that they are at their best when doing so.”

Governor Phil Murphy signed the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act into law in February 2021. The legislation legalized the possession of up to six ounces of cannabis for adults, although legal sales of adult-use cannabis have been delayed more than once while regulators create the rules for legal production and sales of recreational pot.

On Thursday, Murphy announced on social media that recreational pot sales will begin at some existing medical cannabis dispensaries next week, only one day after the infamous 4/20 weed holiday.

“This is a historic step in our work to create a new cannabis industry,” Murphy wrote on Twitter.

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission said it would post a list of the medical dispensaries that will begin selling adult-use cannabis on April 21 once the retailers have shared their plans with the agency.

“This is an exciting time for New Jersey,” said executive director Jeff Brown. “We have been intentional and deliberate to do everything in our power to set the market on good footing to start.”

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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 Lawmaker Plans Hearings for Delays to Cannabis Launch

The New Jersey adult-use cannabis program is off to a halting start, with the launch of sales hamstrung by repeated delays. 

Now a top lawmaker in the Garden State wants answers, and is working hard to get them through the work of a committee. 

Nick Scutari, the president of the New Jersey State Senate, said Tuesday that he is forming a special legislative committee to look into why legal pot sales still haven’t begun in the state.

“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.”

In a press release, Scutari’s office said 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,” as well as to find out “what can be done to meet the demands and reduce the costs of medical marijuana.”

In 2020, New Jersey voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to legalize recreational pot use for adults aged 21 and older. However, there has still not been anything put in place when it comes to actual movement on legalization. 

Last year, Scutari helped author and pass legislation designed to implement the adult-use program. 

But the new cannabis program has been beset by repeated delays since that bill was passed, including a missed deadline in September to begin accepting applications from would-be cannabis cultivators, manufacturers and testing labs.

Last month, after New Jersey regulators missed a deadline for recreational pot sales to begin, Democratic Governor Phil Murphy indicated that the launch was coming soon

“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 during an interview on a 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.”

But that plan hit a snag last week, when the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission declined to award licenses to eight medical cannabis dispensaries hoping to sell adult-use cannabis.

Jeff Brown, the executive director of the commission, said that the panel would like to receive additional information from those medicinal dispensaries regarding how they will have enough product to serve both sets of customers.

“We may not be 100% there today, but I assure you we will get there,” Brown said last week. “We have a few things to address and when we address them I’m happy to return to this body with a further update.”

In the meantime, Scutari wants to get to the bottom of the delays. His office said Tuesday that his plan is to “form a bi-partisan special committee” and then ask “the Assembly if they want to participate to make it a joint panel of legislators from both houses.”

“The oversight hearings will include an accounting from CRC officials and input from those operating cannabis businesses or waiting to get licensed, as well as others involved in the legal marijuana market,” the press release from Scutari’s office explained. 

“The voters approved adult-use recreational marijuana in 2020 and the implementing legislation was enacted more than a year ago. The Cannabis Regulatory Commission missed its deadline for allowing [medical cannabis dispensaries] to sell to the recreational market. The licensing of growers, distributors and retailers to serve the adult-use market has been plagued with repeated delays. Senator Scutari said the committee’s membership and scheduling will be worked out soon.”

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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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Review Paper Examines Cannabis as a Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis

The authors of this review paper are representatives of Saint James School of Medicine in Illinois and School of Natural Sciences at Kean University in New Jersey. Their review paper, “Neurological Benefits, Clinical Challenges, and Neuropathologic Promise of Medical Marijuana: A Systematic Review of Cannabinoid Effects in Multiple Sclerosis and Experimental Models of Demyelination,” was published in the journal Biomedicines on February 24 and analyzes 28 different studies in relation to multiple sclerosis. These final studies were chosen from a pool of 119 articles that were eligible for consideration in this review.

Multiple sclerosis symptoms often include fatigue, mobility impairment, speech impairments, chronic neuropathic pain, anxiety, depression, and a range of other effects. In their review, researchers state that patients are dissatisfied with current treatments available for their condition, which motivates researchers “to search for adjunctive remedies in the hope of preventing breakthrough relapses and worsening of disability.” 

Fourteen of the 28 studies involved using animal models while exploring the effects of cannabis. Overall, the authors of the study determined that “The experimental results combined adequately demonstrate that cannabinoid treatments are effective” with diminishing a variety of symptoms. The authors determined that the studies were promising but cannot replace tests conducted on human subjects. “While internal validity was very good in the preclinical studies because experiments were well designed and well controlled, the external validity of animal studies is less certain due to differences in the cannabinoid systems between species that may affect safety, dose responses, tolerability, and homeostasis.”

The researchers also evaluated 14 human-based studies, which utilized Sativex®, which is a cannabis-based oral spray approved for multiple sclerosis in the EU, UK, and Canada, but not yet in the US. “The growing body of moderate-quality evidence for the safety and efficacy of cannabinoid treatment using 1:1 THC/CBD mixtures has led to its approval in some countries for the management of spasticity, pain, and bladder dysfunction in MS,” the authors wrote. “Our assessments agree with others, finding that the magnitudes of effects on short-term neurological outcomes in MS patients are either small, limited, or moderate, and that the benefits are more easily detected by subjective rather than objective measures.”

Nine of the studies analyzed the efficacy of cannabis on muscle spasms, five evaluated cannabis and pain, three examined lower urinary tract function, and three explored sleep quality.

The authors of this review conclude that, similarly to most other research initiatives involving cannabis, while there is promising evidence that cannabis can help treat multiple sclerosis and a variety of symptoms, more studies are necessary. “Future studies are recommended to investigate the cellular and molecular mechanisms of cannabinoid effects on MS lesions and to evaluate whether medical marijuana can accelerate remyelination and retard the accrual of disability over the long term.”

The National MS Society states that there are 2.3 million people who suffer from multiple sclerosis worldwide, and that over one million people suffer from the condition in the US. The organization’s stance on medical cannabis is supportive, and also calls for more research to bolster evidence for cannabis as a multiple sclerosis treatment. “The [National MS] Society supports the rights of people with MS to work with their health care provider to access cannabis for medical purposes in accordance with legal regulations in those states where such use has been approved. In addition, the Society supports the need for more research to better understand the benefits and potential risks of cannabis and its derivatives as a treatment for MS and its symptoms.”

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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 Governor Says Adult-Use Pot Sales Could Start Soon

Democratic Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey announced the imminent launch of the state’s regulated recreational cannabis market, saying retail sales could begin “within weeks.” The announcement came after regulators missed last Tuesday’s self-imposed deadline for adult-use cannabis sales to start.

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

New Jersey voters legalized adult-use cannabis in the November 2020 general election with the approval of Question 1, a ballot measure that passed with 67 percent of the vote. The law set a September 2021 deadline for the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) to begin accepting applications for business licenses. 

However, the agency missed the deadline and instead announced that they were establishing the process to accept the applications. On December 15, the CRC began accepting applications for cannabis cultivators, manufacturers, and testing labs. Applications for recreational cannabis retailers are scheduled to launch on March 15.

Regulators Miss Deadline for Retail Sales

The legislation also mandated that legal sales of recreational cannabis begin by mid-February of this year or within six months after the commission adopted its initial regulations. But in September, Murphy said that the launch of adult-use sales would also likely be delayed. Sales will first begin in the state’s existing medical cannabis dispensaries, which now serve 120,000 registered patients, followed by retailers licensed to sell only recreational cannabis.

“First or second quarter from a medical dispensary, and then a little bit behind that from a standalone retail shop,” the governor said at the time. “I think there’s a very good chance, assuming the medical dispensaries can prove that they’ve got enough supply for their patients, that they’ll be able to participate in the adult use of cannabis before there are actually retail establishments independently set up, but this is coming.”

Eight of the 10 companies operating New Jersey’s 23 medical marijuana dispensaries have applied for licenses to sell adult-use cannabis. CRC Executive Director Jeff Brown said on Thursday that five of those applications had been deemed “complete and are in substantive review.” 

Last month, Brown reported that several factors were delaying the approval of licenses to sell recreational cannabis, including approval from local authorities. Under the state’s regulations, municipalities must approve a medical cannabis dispensary’s bid to begin serving adult-use cannabis consumers.

“One of the biggest deficiencies we’re seeing is a lack of municipal approval,” Brown said at a meeting in January. “That’s an issue, and supply continues to be an issue. It’s the priority of the CRC to get recreational sales started as soon as we can, but we have to do it in a way that’s compliant with the law. We need the industry to get there.”

But medical cannabis operators, including Curaleaf northeast regional president Patrik Jonsson, criticized the CRC’s slow pace of approving licenses. Some companies have said that they may have to lay off employees and destroy expiring product if the recreational cannabis market does not open soon.

“They’re so concerned with getting it perfect, and it’s unfortunate because I think you’re losing a lot of opportunities,” Jonsson told USA TODAY Network New Jersey last month.

Murphy noted on Wednesday that the process of legalizing cannabis in New Jersey, which was a featured issue during his 2017 gubernatorial campaign, has been difficult and is taking longer than he expected. But, the governor said, it is “better to be right than fast.”

“And God willing, that’s what we’re gonna get,” Murphy added.

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