N.J. commission approves first recreational weed retail licenses

In this March 22, 2019, file photo, a marijuana plant grows at the Compassionate Care Foundation's grow house in Egg Harbor Township, N.J.

File photo: A marijuana plant grows at the Compassionate Care Foundation's grow house in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. (Julio Cortez/AP)

New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission approved seven medical marijuana facilities to begin selling cannabis on the recreational market.

The vote happened at a special meeting held Monday afternoon, though the commission did not announce a date for regulated recreational sales to begin. Instead, CRC Executive Director Jeff Brown said that retail licenses could be issued within a month, after approved alternative treatment centers pay fees and undergo compliance assessments.

Among the alternative treatment centers approved are CureLeaf, Acreage CCF New Jersey, Verano, Columbia Care, Ascend New Jersey, TerraAscend and GTI New Jersey.

It comes more than a month after the state missed its Feb. 22 deadline for alternative treatment centers to begin selling recreational cannabis to adults over the age of 21.

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“All of the (alternative treatment centers) here, we believe have proven and have shown that they have adequate supply for their medical patients, that they are willing to put in place the necessary mechanisms to protect that supply, and ensure that medical patients are not impacted,” Brown said.

As of March 30, 327 businesses have applied for retail licenses in New Jersey, Brown said at the meeting. Commissioners also approved 34 more cultivator and manufacturer licenses at Monday’s meeting.

New Jerseyans overwhelmingly voted for cannabis legalization in the 2020 general election, though municipalities were allowed to opt out of retail sales by last August.

Last month, Senate President Nick Scutari (D-22) called the delay “totally unacceptable” and announced he would hold special hearings on the issue. Though, no dates have been set, according to Richard McGrath, a spokesperson for Senate Democrats.

Proponents of a pragmatic approach to establishing a regulated market said they supported the delays because it would ensure that existing medical marijuana patients did not have their supply interrupted.

“If (alternative treatment centers) are not able to meet the commitment to continue to prioritize access for patients and set aside supply, they would be subject to $10,000 per day in fines,” Brown said. “And then if they routinely are fined because of a lack of supply or lack of access, then possible license suspension, if that patient access and supply is not preserved or protected.”

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Some also said it would give the commission more time to ensure social equity applications were handled adequately.

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