The State of New Jersey will be the latest in a growing list of states to legalize cannabis. On Thursday, April 21st, one day after the famous cannabis holiday, New Jersey residents over the age of 21 will be able to buy cannabis from a list of medical marijuana dispensaries across the state. These select locations, which will include seven companies operating out of 13 already-established medical marijuana dispensaries, will be authorized to sell cannabis to all adults for recreational purposes on day one, but the goal will be to eventually have a flourishing multi-billion dollar industry providing a flood of new revenue for the state and its diverse communities.
A Focus on Social Equity
New Jersey’s legalization effort joins those in many states across the country trying to bring cannabis into the legal sphere, and has been underway since November 2020, when voters approved a referendum legalizing recreational cannabis use in the state.
While the 16-month process from vote to opening day was longer than cannabis advocates hoped for, most have expressed appreciation for the time taken by New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission to ensure that the state’s existing medical-marijuana patients would continue to have easy access to their medicine in a busier market, and applauded the standards of social equity built into the legal framework for approving new cannabis business applications. The new laws are aimed at addressing the damage that drug prohibition has caused, disproportionately falling on people of color and making it difficult for medical patients to know they are purchasing safe, rigorously tested products.
New Jersey Legacy Market and Diversity Inclusion at Heart of Legalization
Several ways New Jersey legislators and its Cannabis Regulatory Commission, or CRC, hope to remedy these issues are by granting priority consideration and approval to new marijuana businesses operated by people with prior marijuana convictions and to companies run by minorities, women, and disabled veterans. The state also intends to prioritize its 170 000 registered medical-marijuana patients. Companies applying for retail licenses must provide ways to ensure existing marijuana patients will not be competing against the influx of new customers, including having enough supply on-location and setting up patient hotlines and patient-only points of sale. Access to recreational cannabis use extends to the state’s police officers as well, who will be permitted to use cannabis while off-duty.
With a focus on social equity, proponents hope that the new industry’s workforce will reflect the diversity of the state and be a benefit to local communities.