N.J’s first day of retail weed sales ‘robust’ and ‘trouble-free,’ regulators say

Customers line up inside a Curaleaf dispensary, Thursday, April 21, 2022, in Bellmawr, N.J. Recreational sales of cannabis for adults 21 and older started Thursday, with the first alternative treatment centers opening at 6 a.m. in part of the state. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Customers line up inside a Curaleaf dispensary, Thursday, April 21, 2022, in Bellmawr, N.J. Recreational sales of cannabis for adults 21 and older started Thursday, with the first alternative treatment centers opening at 6 a.m. in part of the state. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Newly opened recreational weed dispensaries throughout New Jersey saw lines wrapped around the building as thousands of retail customers were eager to be among the first to buy weed from state-approved facilities.

At Zen Leaf’s dispensary in Lawrence store managers estimated that the facility had served hundreds of customers by the afternoon.

The first adult-use cannabis licenses in New Jersey were awarded to previously established medical marijuana companies like Verano, Zen Leaf’s parent company.

Despite the influx of retail customers, facilities are still mandated by the state to ensure services for medical marijuana patients are not interrupted.

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Verano vice president for regional sales, Anthony Dindia, said Zen Leaf dispensaries are in compliance with the mandate and said it had implemented protections for patients — including patient-only hours at the beginning and end of each day, and priority parking for patients.

Police were on hand at Zen Leaf’s Lawrence facility Thursday afternoon, directing traffic and advising retail customers to park a stone’s throw away in the Quakerbridge Mall parking lot.

“The medicinal cannabis community is what started all of this essentially, and we value them higher than ever, every day,” Dindia said.

Zen Leaf also implemented priority lines for medical cardholders.

“For a medical patient, they should see no difference in the amount and the care, the level of commitment that we’ve had,” Dindia said.

Just after 4 p.m., the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission, or CRC, said that it did not receive reports of “significant patient access issues or supply shortages” on Thursday. The commission said it investigated “only a few minor complaints.”

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Though, the commission did not immediately respond to requests to elaborate on what the minor complaints entailed.

An NJ.com report published on Wednesday said that the CRC issued a warning that the supply of commission-approved cannabis might run out on Thursday.

“The NJ-CRC has at its disposal punitive actions including fines and up to suspension of permits for dispensaries that fall out of compliance. Our expectation is that there will be great demand on recreational supply and that products will run out,” the CRC said in an email to NJ.com.

Concerns have also grown over what cannabis regulations mean for police officers in the state.

According to Politico, New Jersey’s Acting Attorney General Matt Platkin issued a memo last week to law enforcement saying that officers could not be punished for consuming weed off the clock.

The memo has faced scrutiny from some Republican state lawmakers. A group of Republican state Senators sent a letter detailing their concerns to the Attorney General’s Office on Thursday.

“The memorandum fails to mention that marijuana users are federally prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms, an omission that may put officers unknowingly at risk of criminal prosecution,” senators wrote.

Wednesday, Jersey City mayor Steve Fulop announced that the city would not follow the Attorney General’s guidance.

“We respect New Jersey’s position, but to clarify in Jersey City, officers (on duty/off duty) will not be permitted,” Fulop tweeted on Wednesday.

Politico reported on Tuesday that Senate President Nick Scutari does not agree with banning police officers from consuming cannabis outside of work.

New Jersey, in 2020, became the 18th state to legalize cannabis.

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