New Jersey moved one step closer to allowing recreational marijuana sales after the state commission overseeing cannabis approved seven current medical pot companies to expand into recreational at 13 locations.
The Cannabis Regulatory Commission on Monday signed off on the recreation expansion by the existing medical facilities, but sales will not begin until three more hurdles are cleared. Officials said those hurdles could take less the a month, though no official deadlines exist.
Those hurdles remaining after the approvals yesterday include:
- Operational assessment for regulatory compliance
- Payment of expansion fees
- License issued by the regulatory commission
The chairwoman of the commission, Dianna Houenou, said at the meeting that a concern remains about overcrowding and "long lines" outside the facilities once recreational sales begin. Advocates agreed.
But, Houenou added, the commission will work with the facilities to ensure that local communities and elected officials are prepared for the opening of recreational sales.
A delay in the approvals occurred in March after the commission deemed the facilities lacked the adequate supply to meet recreational demands. Commission officials said last month the facilities were about 100,000 pounds short of the expected demand.
One stipulation for the eventual opening of recreational sales is that medical sales will have priority and dedicated hours at the facilities approved Monday, officials said.
Advocates for recreational marijuana said the approvals are a step in the right direction, but that the industry in New Jersey will still be dominated by national marijuana distributors until more dispensaries are approved.
"These are the largest cannabis corporations in America," longtime marijuana advocate Chris Goldstein, who is regional organizer for NORML in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, said Monday. "So socially conscious cannabis consumers will likely wait to purchase from a local small business."
He added that the sale of recreational marijuana at just seven locations initially could present a rush in the first few months.
"From a consumer perspective this could be a real challenge," Goldstein said. "These handful of stores will be open for New Jersey patients and anyone over 21 who wants some recreational cannabis in Pennsylvania, New York or New Jersey."