The Adult-Use Cannabis Market Is Opening for Business in New Jersey

Thirteen medicinal cannabis dispensaries will soon be able to expand into recreational sales

Curaleaf Queens-resized
Photo: Curaleaf

Recreational cannabis sales for adults 21 and over have been approved by New Jersey officials.

Initially, a handful of sites already operating as medicinal dispensaries will be able to expand into the adult-use market. So far, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) has approved 13 dispensaries, known officially as Alternative Treatment Clinics (ATCs), for recreational sales. The sites are run by seven operators including Acreage Holdings, Ascend New Jersey, Columbia Care, Curaleaf, Green Thumb Industries, TerrAscend, and Verano Holdings.

Residents of the Garden State voted to legalize recreational cannabis sales in November of 2020 when they approved New Jersey Public Question 1. Regulations have been slow to take shape since and the future of adult-use sales remained unclear even as recently as a few weeks ago. Last month, the CRC delayed approving medicinal shops for recreational sales. CRC executive director, Jeff Brown, cited several factors for the delay including a possible supply crunch. In particular, Bown expressed concern that recreational sales could siphon critical supply for medicinal patients. At a meeting last month, Brown said he believed dispensaries were approximately 100,000 pounds short of enough cannabis to support both recreational and medicinal sales.

Brown now says he has met with the organizations that have received approval and believes they have proven they have enough supply for both adult-use sales and the state’s 130,000 registered cannabis patients. The 13 dispensaries will be subjected to a final round of assessments by the CRC and will be required to pay licensing fees before sales can legally begin.

“Expansion into the adult-use market — with a substantial advantageous start ahead of new applicants — is a privilege that must not be taken lightly. We expect these ATCs to uphold their promises to patients and communities; and that recreational customers will be adequately served,” CRC Chair Dianna Houenou said according to Asbury Park Press. “The NJ-CRC will be holding these businesses accountable to the commitments that led to their approvals. It is now on these expanded ATCs to keep up with demand — both medicinal and recreational.”

Many in the cannabis industry voiced their frustration after the CRC announced last month’s delay. Now, excitement seems to be building with industry organizations like the New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association (NJCTA).

The New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association would like to express its satisfaction with today’s historic announcement from the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission on opening the adult-use market in New Jersey,” the NJCTA said in a statement. “This is a win for so many in our state. Not only will the adult-use market be especially beneficial to growing the economy and developing jobs in New Jersey, but the taxes from this now-legal marketplace will go directly to supporting social equity goals and assisting those who were disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy made recreational cannabis legalization a cornerstone of his successful 2018 gubernatorial campaign. So far an official start date for adult-use sales has not been announced. But in a radio interview last week, Murphy indicated he believed sales would be starting in a matter of weeks.