New Jersey Monitor

People had plenty of reasons to worry that New Jersey would fumble the rollout of recreational weed sales Thursday morning. Between the delays in launching the market to worries over low supply, some were concerned about how Day 1 would go.

But the launch of recreational marijuana sales went relatively pain-free, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission said in a statement. Worries about low supply and harm to medical patients had delayed its launch, but those fears never materialized.

“While lines were long in some locations, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission has had to investigate only a few minor complaints. No significant patient access issues or supply shortages have been reported,” the agency said in a statement.

While 13 dispensaries were initially approved to sell adult-use cannabis as long as they met all the requirements set by CRC, only 12 opened Thursday — CuraLeaf in Edgewater Park remains limited to medical patients, for reasons the state didn’t specify.

It's also unclear when sales will start in Montclair, which passed an ordinance last summer to allow multiple kinds of marijuana businesses in town. Representatives of Ascend — the Bloomfield Avenue medical dispensary that first opened in 2012 under former owners, as Greenleaf Compassion Center — have told Montclair Local they haven't yet been able to apply for a local license because the township hasn't yet completed creating its application process. They're hoping the Montclair Township Council will authorize Ascend to sell marijuana for recreational use by passing a resolution — as the governing bodies in Rochelle Park did for the dispensary's location there — bypassing the need for a local application. Interim Township Attorney Paul Burr said recently that request was under consideration.

Business groups applauded the historic first day of adult-use recreational cannabis sales. The New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association expects sales to boost the economy by $2 billion within a few years.

“What a momentous day for our state. Today would not have been possible without the hard work of so many,” said Edmund DeVeaux, president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association.

New Jersey became the 15th state in the country where residents and visitors 21 and older can buy marijuana. Voters approved it in November 2020.

DeVeaux also commended Gov. Phil Murphy and state Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) for their longtime dedication to legalization. Murphy first promised to legalize recreational pot during his campaign in 2017, while Scutari said his cannabis advocacy began in 2004.

Both politicians, along with Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, toured Zen Leaf in Elizabeth Thursday morning.

Jamie Pomeroy, director of customer service for Zen Leaf’s owner Verano, said the first day “went surprisingly well. Very busy.” The dispensary is learning from the rollout, he said, and it’ll take some time for the hype to die down — which might mean long lines for the foreseeable future.

Crowds flocked to dispensaries as early as 6 a.m. Thursday, and lines snaked around stores for hours. Through the afternoon, people waited hours to make their purchase at the limited number of dispensaries.

But Friday morning, Zen Leaf workers began taking people’s orders on iPads before they entered the store to expedite their experience, Pomeroy said. He foresees no issue with supply heading into the weekend.

People can buy up to an ounce of dried flower, 5 grams of concentrates or oils, or up to 1,000 mg of edibles. Most dispensaries limit how much customers can buy, partly to ensure there’s enough product for both medicinal and recreational consumers.

Pomeroy said New Jersey’s launch met his expectations and compared it to how Arizona is transitioning its medical cannabis facilities into recreational stores. He predicts the market will naturally smooth out.

Jeff Brown, executive director of the CRC, had some advice for cannabis consumers, new and old: store cannabis products out of reach of children, don’t drive while high, don’t cross state lines, and don’t buy or carry more than one ounce.

“We encourage everyone to be safe by buying only from licensed dispensaries and by starting low and going slow — especially those who are new to cannabis or who haven’t consumed cannabis in a long time,” Brown said.

This story is provided by New Jersey Monitor. It originally appeared here. Additions have been made by Montclair Local, based on reporting by Jaimie Julia Winters, to note the status of Montclair-based medical dispensary Ascend.