What to know as N.J. prepares to roll out regulated weed market this week

Marijuana buds are seen in a prescription bottle

File photo: Marijuana buds are seen in a prescription bottle as they are sorted at Compassionate Care Foundation's grow house, Friday, March 22, 2019, in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The regulated adult use cannabis market is set to begin sales on Thursday, when the first approved dispensaries will begin to take customers.

It comes nearly 16 months after New Jerseyans overwhelmingly voted to legalize marijuana in the 2020 general election, and after the state missed its own deadline for retail sales to begin on Feb. 22.

Here’s what you need to know as the regulated adult use market opens.

What dispensaries were approved to begin sales?

Last week, New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission, or CRC, approved seven alternative treatment centers (the state’s term for medical marijuana facilities) to begin sales to adults 21 and older.

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​​The commission is tasked with establishing and enforcing regulations governing the licensing, testing, cultivation, selling, and purchasing of cannabis in New Jersey.

Commission-approved dispensaries include CuraLeaf, Acreage CCF New Jersey, Verano, Columbia Care, Ascend New Jersey, TerraAscend and GTI New Jersey. Together, these entities operate 13 facilities across the state.

The CRC has posted a list of approved retail dispensaries and said it will continue to add to the list as more facilities are approved.

Safeguard for patients

Some cannabis advocacy organizations were slow to criticize the state’s delay in getting sales up and running because they said the commission needed to ensure that medical marijuana patients, people who hold state-approved medical ID cards, would not lose access to their medicine.

As part of the consideration for being awarded a retail sales license, representatives from the approved alternative treatment centers listed the ways in which they would prioritize existing medical patients.

For example, Volley Hayhurst, vice president of operations for Columbia Care, which has dispensaries in Deptford and Vineland, said the company is prepared to implement a 10-point plan bearing medical patients in mind.

Some strategies include establishing patient-only hours, a patient hotline, and patient-only “queues” and “point of sale” stations.

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Curaleaf, which has locations in Edgewater Park and Bordentown, will host educational town halls for medical patients, including one scheduled for Monday, said Matt Darin, the U.S. president for the company.

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