N.J. Senate President wants to hold special meetings over retail weed sales delay

New Jersey Senate President Nick Scutari has announced he plans to form a joint committee to investigate the hold up over recreational weed sales.

Marijuana buds are seen in a glass jar

File photo: Marijuana buds are shown at Huron View Provisioning in Ann Arbor, Mich., Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

It’s still uncertain when regulated recreational marijuana sales will begin in New Jersey, but top lawmakers are starting to grow concerned, as the state’s regulatory commission continues to delay the process.

This week, New Jersey Senate President Nick Scutari (D-22) announced he plans to form a joint committee to investigate the hold up.

The state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission, or CRC, in February missed its deadline to allow alternate treatment centers to begin selling cannabis on the recreational market. The commission is tasked with establishing and enforcing regulations governing the licensing, testing, cultivation, selling and purchasing of cannabis in New Jersey.

“These delays are totally unacceptable,” Scutari said in a statement on Tuesday. “We need to get the legal marijuana market up and running in New Jersey. This has become a failure to follow through on the public mandate and to meet the expectations for new businesses and consumers.”

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Scutari was one of the primary sponsors on legislation signed last year setting guidelines for the market.

It comes as the commission conditionally approved 68 recreational cannabis cultivator and manufacturer licenses a week ago, according to N.J. Cannabis Insider.

State law requires the commission to give 30-day advance notice, and many saw it as a sign that regulated recreational sales could begin in April.

However, commissioners tabled a vote on the matter, the Asbury Park Press reported.

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Some industry players don’t see the delay as a major problem.

Edmund DeVeaux, president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, said it’s about ensuring the market is implemented properly. He also said it would ensure that homegrown New Jersey companies will not be overlooked for larger established companies coming from out of state.

“I think the commission has taken deliberate steps to make sure that we get it right,” DeVeaux said. “There was no playbook. Everyone is doing this for the first time”

Precious Osagie-Erese, Chief Operating Officer of Roll Up Life, a Black-owned cannabis delivery startup in East Orange, echoed DeVeaux.

She said rushing to open regulated retail sales could hurt existing medical marijuana patients, whom she said could face supply chain issues if distribution and other logistical concerns are rushed.

Osagie-Erese also argued that giving the commission more time to establish regulations would ensure that social equity applications are processed fairly.

“I have not been a proponent of rushing to open an adult use market when the supply chain is not all the way there yet,” Osagie-Erese said.

“There isn’t a direct rush, because we don’t want this to be rolled out wrong, where it’s not sustainable,” she said.

As part of a commitment to ensuring social equity in New Jersey’s legal cannabis space, the state must set aside a certain amount of business licenses for owners of color, women and veterans.

The CRC has announced a special meeting for April 11 at 6 p.m.

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