New Licenses Awarded to Expand Cannabis Industry in New Jersey

Regulators in New Jersey last week voted to significantly increase the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the state. 

In a four to one vote on Friday, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission agreed “to issue 10 new licenses for medical marijuana cultivators and four new licenses for vertically integrated businesses, which grow, manufacture and sell medical marijuana at dispensaries,” the Asbury Park Press reported.

With the approval from the commission, the “number of legal cannabis growers in the state will more than double,” according to the newspaper.

The publication noted that by “the state’s own estimates, there should be 26 medical marijuana cultivators and 61 dispensaries to handle that number of patients,” but instead “the state has just 23 active dispensaries selling cannabis grown by only 10 operators.”

New Jersey legalized medical cannabis in 2010, when then-governor Jon Corzine signed the Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act, which cleared the way for qualifying patients to receive the treatment. Today, those qualifying conditions include: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Anxiety, Cancer, Chronic Pain, Dysmenorrhea, Glaucoma Inflammatory bowel disease including Crohn’s disease, Intractable skeletal spasticity, Migraine, Multiple sclerosis, Muscular dystrophy and Opioid Use Disorder.

The list of qualifying conditions broadened in 2018, when New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced a slate of reforms designed to “expand access to marijuana for medical purposes and to reduce barriers that patients face when they are seeking access to medicinal marijuana.” Some of the recommendations in Murphy’s reform push included establishing “new categories of qualifying debilitating medical conditions,” among them: anxiety, migraines, Tourette’s syndrome, chronic pain related to musculoskeletal disorders and chronic visceral pain. 

Last year, New Jersey was one of four states where voters passed ballot proposals legalizing recreational marijuana (Arizona, Montana and South Dakota were the others), and lawmakers in the Garden State have been busy implementing a regulated system.

New Jersey Medical Cannabis Industry is a Work in Progress

In February, Murphy signed the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act, which officially legalized pot use for adults aged 21 and older.

Murphy, a Democrat, said the legislation 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.”

“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. “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.”

In addition to that bill, Murphy also signed also signed S3454, which clarified “marijuana and cannabis use and possession penalties for individuals younger than 21 years old.”

“Today, we’re taking a monumental step forward to reduce racial disparities in our criminal justice system, while building a promising new industry and standing on the right side of history. I’d like to thank the Legislature, advocates, faith leaders, and community leaders for their dedicated work and partnership on this critical issue,” Murphy said at the time.

In the vote on Friday, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission also hammered out new terms for license holders, including one provision requiring them to “wait at least one year before applying for a permit to transition into recreational sales and cannot change ownership for two years,” the Asbury Park Press reported.
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