Regulators just green lit seven companies to kick off adult-use sales within the next month
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect new information.
New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) approved the first 13 dispensaries that will be allowed to sell adult-use cannabis in the state today. Recreational sales to adults 21 and over are expected to begin April 21. The 13 approved dispensaries are owned by seven vertically-integrated operators including Curaleaf, TerrAscend, and Columbia Care.
Last month, the CRC was concerned that legal supply would fail to meet consumer demand. They were also worried about the ability of medical producers already operating in the state—known as a ATCs, “Alternative Treatment Centers”—to open their doors to recreational sales without interrupting access for medical patients. There were also concerns that ATCs were shortcutting social equity and labor protections in a rush to welcome recreational customers.
Today, representatives from seven multi-state medical cannabis operators testified before the board with their individual plans for protecting medical access and social equity across the state. The board’s vote granted certifications to all seven companies, allowing them to expand operations into the adult-use cannabis market at 13 of their 18 combined locations.
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CRC chair Dianna Houenou made clear that the dispensaries are “not authorized to immediately begin,” and must wait until after the board grants their official licenses. Each approved facility must pass a final site assessment from the CRC, pay an expansion fee up to $1 million, and receive their official license before starting recreational sales.
Thursday (April 14), the CRC and NJ Gov. Phil Murphy announced that the first physical licenses will be given out April 21. The CRC will post the official list of licensed dispensaries once they have met their license requirements.
Jeff Brown, the CRC executive director, advised that the process could take more or less than 30 days from today’s approval for each dispensary, depending on how quickly they complete their assessments and pay required fees. Once those requirements are met, the dispensary can open to the public.
Only 13 dispensaries received approval from the CRC.
According to a press release from the CRC, “Once they pass operational inspections and are issued new licenses, Acreage CCF New Jersey, Curaleaf, Columbia Care, Verano, GTI New Jersey (Green Thumb Industries), Ascend New Jersey, and TerrAscend will be able to cultivate cannabis, manufacture cannabis products, and conduct retail sales to the general public in 13 dispensaries across the state.”
Dispensaries run by Curaleaf (Bellmawr, Edgewater Park), Columbia Care (Vineland, Deptford), and Acreage Holdings (Egg Harbor Township, Williamstown) will be among the facilities hoping to operate in southern New Jersey.
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Dispensaries run by Verano (Lawrence, Elizabeth) will operate in central NJ, and Ascend Wellness (Rochelle Park), TerrAscend (Phillipsburg, Maplewood), and GTI New Jersey (Paterson, Bloomfield) will operate in northern NJ.
“Expansion into the adult-use market—with a substantial advantageous start ahead of new applicants—is a privilege that must not be taken lightly,” said Houenou. “We expect these ATCs to uphold their promises to patients and communities; and that recreational customers will be adequately served.”
More licenses are on the way
In addition to approving the expansions for the seven medical producers, the CRC also approved 34 conditional license applications for New Jersey cultivators and manufacturers looking to open later this year. That brings the number of conditional licenses approved so far to 102.
Conditional license awardees now have about four months to find a site, get local approval to operate, and apply for an annual license. The conditional licenses are a gateway for small businesses to get into the game before annual licenses are granted to larger operators.
As of March 30, 2022, the CRC has received 732 applications: 511 of those were from Diversly-Owned Businesses (70%), 213 from Social Equity Businesses (29%), and 310 from Impact Zone Businesses (42%), according to the CRC. Of the 732 applications received, 410 applications have begun the priority review process.
New Jersey is the latest battleground for social equity in the cannabis industry. NJ lawmakers are competing with neighbors in New York to set a new bar for using legal cannabis to address the harm done by the War on Drugs. Their plan is to prioritize applications from business that are majority-owned by residents with cannabis charges, who live in impact zones, or who identify as Black, LatinX, Asian, a disabled veteran, or a woman.