After missing a self-imposed deadline to open the state for legal marijuana sales, Gov. Phil Murphy said New Jersey is “within weeks” of having existing medical weed dispensaries sell recreational cannabis to adults 21 and older.
“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 his radio show on WBGO in Newark. “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 overwhelmingly approved legalizing recreational marijuana in November 2020, but sales have not started after more than a year.
The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which is in charge of regulating the new industry, is still reviewing applications for licenses. The panel missed a self-imposed Feb. 22 deadline to open the state for adult-use cannabis.
Jeff Brown, the commission’s executive director, said a number of factors are still in the way before the doors can open, including lack of municipal buy-in. Local officials must attest in writing they support the the alternative treatment centers — the growers and sellers of medical marijuana in their communities— have permission to sell the product for recreational use.
There are 23 retail locations selling cannabis to the state’s more than 120,000 registered patients.
“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 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.”
Meanwhile several medical marijuana providers have openly complained the state is taking too long to approve their requests to serve the legal market. They’ve threatened to lay off employees and destroy product if the adult market doesn’t open soon.
State regulation requires the commission to vote at a public meeting to approve applications to sell recreational weed. The commission meets Thursday, although no applications are on the agenda. The following meeting is March 24.
Murphy said Wednesday the whole process of legalizing marijuana in New Jersey — something he campaigned on in 2017 — has taken longer than he expected. But, it’s “better to be right than fast. And God willing, that’s what we’re gonna get,” Murphy said.