NJ approves 7 facilities for the sale of recreational cannabis

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TRENTON, NJ (AP) — New Jersey regulators gave seven facilities that already sell medical marijuana the go-ahead on Monday to also sell recreational cannabis, though it’s unclear exactly when sales would begin.

Sales could begin in a few weeks or more, but no specific date was set when the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission voted in a meeting held remotely. Three of the facilities, known as alternative treatment centers, are in the northern part of the state. Three are in southern and one in central New Jersey.

When sales will begin is unclear in part because facilities have yet to pass regulatory inspection of their operations and obtain new licenses.

The New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association, a trade group that advocates for alternative treatment centers, estimated that recreational retail sales could begin as early as late April, according to spokeswoman Pamela Dollak. But this may vary by location, as each center faces compliance and other considerations.

Retail sales for the general public would begin at 13 dispensaries operated by the state’s seven treatment centers.

To gain approval, the establishments agreed that the coming influx of recreational buyers will not interrupt access for patients currently using medical marijuana. Facilities said they would reserve parking spaces for patients and keep hours specifically set aside for patients.

There are about 130,000 medical marijuana patients in the state, with about 800,000 potential recreational users and less than 800,000 “tourist” users, according to the commission.

How much the state will receive in tax revenue from recreational marijuana is unclear. Murphy’s fiscal year 2023 budget, which is pending before the Democratic-led Legislature, estimates revenue at just $19 million out of a nearly $49 billion budget. In 2019, when the legalization of recreational marijuana was still pending before voters, he estimated around $60 million in revenue.

Legislation governing the recreational market provides for the application of the 6.625% sales tax, with 70% of revenue going to areas disproportionately affected by marijuana-related arrests. Black residents were more likely — up to three times more likely — to face marijuana charges than white residents. Municipalities can also levy a tax of up to 2%.

“These approvals were given on the basis of commitments from the ATCs that we would not see any adverse effects with the expansion,” said commission chair Dianna Houenou. “Expansion into the adult use market – with a substantial head start ahead of new entrants – is a privilege not to be taken lightly.”

The vote comes about a year after the commission began operations and a year and a half after voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot question allowing recreational marijuana for people 21 and older.

New Jersey Senate Speaker Nicholas Scutari welcomed the development in a statement Monday, but said the state needed to “do better and in a timely manner.”

He added that he plans to hold oversight hearings to understand the “delays, uncertainties and obstacles that impede the full implementation of the cannabis law.”

New Jersey is one of 18 states, along with the District of Columbia, that has legalized recreational marijuana. There are also 37 states, including New Jersey, that have legalized medical marijuana.

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