N.J. approves first set of rules for recreational weed sales. Here’s what you need to know

Nearly a year after residents voted to legalize it, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission planted the seeds for recreational marijuana use.

Marijuana buds are seen in prescription bottles

Marijuana buds are seen in prescription bottles 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)

New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission has approved the first set of regulations for the recreational marijuana market.

These are rules that will govern the businesses, at least where municipalities haven’t either adopted their own rules or opted out completely ahead of an Aug. 21 deadline. Some municipalities, like Camden, are opting out only to take time to craft their own rules for the cannabis market.

The regulations come nearly a year after voters overwhelmingly approved legalizing recreational marijuana, and six months after Gov. Phil Murphy signed three bills decriminalizing possession of six ounces or less and using it on private property for people ages 21 and up.

So far, the rules are being well-received as a “big” first step.

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Here’s what you need to know:

How soon will sales start?

Not so fast. The commission still needs to announce the application acceptance period. Commission Chair Dianna Houenou previously said New Jerseyans probably won’t be able to walk into a recreational marijuana dispensary and buy cannabis until 2022.

Which businesses will receive priority?

The commission laid out three types of businesses that will have their applications for licenses reviewed before others, regardless of when they apply:

  • Social Equity Businesses: owned by people who have lived in low-income areas of New Jersey or have past marijuana convictions
  • Diversely Owned Businesses: owned by people of color, women, or disabled veterans
  • Impact Zone Businesses: located in cities or towns with large populations, high unemployment rates, or high numbers of marijuana crimes or arrests.

The commission will also prioritize microbusinesses, defined as small businesses with no more than 10 employees and space no larger than 2,500 square feet. If successful, they will be allowed to apply to expand their business in accordance with consumer demand after a year.

The cost of being a ganja-preneur

The commission said it intentionally set fees low to encourage diversity and equity in New Jersey’s cannabis industry. License application fees are $100 for microbusinesses and $200 for standard businesses. The annual license fee is $1,000 for microbusinesses, and much higher for standard businesses depending on the size and whether they have a license to sell, manufacture, or grow marijuana.

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Adults only

Access to cannabis businesses is restricted to people 21 and older.

Also, the commission has restricted the use of cartoons, candy, or anything that could be attractive to children when it comes to advertising. Businesses can advertise on mediums that cater to people over 21. Radio and television commercials are allowed, but only between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Municipalities still have a say

Municipalities that have passed regulations addressing cannabis businesses can revise them and notify the commission — even the ones that banned them ahead of the commission issuing rules.

However, the businesses will only be licensed by the commission if a municipality supports it and local ordinances are met.

Municipalities can determine hours of operation, the number of licenses, and whether to enact a 2% transfer tax on any sales between businesses.

Cannabis businesses must contain odors and engage with their neighbors. The businesses must have an employee residents can call to report any nuisances. Residents can also report issues directly to the commission.

Safety is key

Retail locations must have education materials on cannabis available for customers. Materials include information on potential side effects of cannabis use, safe using techniques, and indicators of abuse.

Products sold in stores must have warnings and information for the poison control center hotline. The packaging must also be childproof.

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