Recreational marijuana in NJ hits a snag — regulators want proof towns are on board
By DANA DIFILIPPO
New Jersey Monitor
When voters opted to legalize marijuana in New Jersey in November 2020, insiders expected the pot-loving public would be able to buy recreational weed right around now.
But at the monthly meeting of the state Cannabis Regulatory Commission Thursday, the man overseeing the industry’s creation in New Jersey said the state is still far from commercial sales of marijuana.
Jeff Brown, the commission’s executive director, put the blame on entrepreneurs, saying those who have applied to open recreational dispensaries haven’t provided proof of municipal buy-in, as they were required to do by Jan. 6.
More than 400 towns — about 71% of the state’s municipalities — have passed ordinances prohibiting cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, wholesale distribution, delivery, and dispensing, according to a USA Today Network analysis of municipal marijuana ordinances. Only about 100 municipalities — most in South and Central Jersey — have passed ordinances allowing legal weed dispensaries, the analysis found.
Montclair is among those allowing legal recreational marijuana, setting rules for establishments last summer in a 5-2 Township Council vote — though the same night, the council considered another measure to ban recreational marijuana businesses at least temporarily, with some members saying they should get more guidance from the commission before moving forward.
Ultimately, the township would allow up to two marijuana retail shops and five other recreational businesses. It's also the home to the Ascend Montclair Dispensary, the site of the former Greenleaf Compassion Center, which had been the first medical dispensary in the state.
Another hurdle at the commission level is a requirement that applicants show they can meet medical demand for marijuana, and still have enough for recreational buyers, Brown said. Some applicants have not shown they can meet operational capacity, ensure patients get served first, and expand access if demand soars higher than expected, Brown added.
“There’s a level of frustration here at the commission,” he said. “There’s an effort to pressure us to move forward in a way that’s not compliant with the law. That’s just simply not going to happen.”
Brown did not offer a date when he thinks sales will start. But regulators now are in the process of reviewing applications; running criminal background checks; checking certifications of businesses said to be owned by minorities, women, or veterans; and otherwise investigating applicants, according to the commission.