NEW JERSEY— It may seem like it took a long time to get the ball rolling, but New Jersey’s timeline for legal marijuana sales was actually “on par” with that of several other states, according to the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC).

The agency in charge of New Jersey’s legal cannabis industry gave updates on several issues during a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, including recreational sales, business licenses and prices.

Listen to a recording of the meeting here.

State lawmakers present at the meeting included Sen. Brian Stack, the committee chair, and Senate President Nick Scutari, who has repeatedly accused NJCRC officials of dragging their feet when it comes to greenlighting recreational sales.

“We are creating a new industry that will generate billions of dollars in economic activity, create thousands of jobs, and provide significant support for the communities impacted by the failed war on drugs,” Scutari said prior to the meeting.

“Now that the adult-use market is up and running, we want to determine what is working, what is planned, and what obstacles need to be rectified,” Scutari added.

New Jersey voters approved recreational marijuana in November 2020. But it wasn’t legal to fire up the bong until Gov. Phil Murphy signed the official framework into law in February 2021. Read More: 5 Things You Need To Know About Marijuana Legalization In NJ

The first day of cannabis sales to the general public took place on April 21. That day, the state’s 12 participating dispensaries – which were all previously cleared to sell medical marijuana – served 12,438 recreational customers.

Business was brisk; they racked up total gross sales of nearly $1.9 million. Read More: NJ Sees Huge Rush Of Customers On First Day Of Cannabis Sales

Jeff Brown, executive director of the NJCRC, pointed out that the agency authorized recreational sales to begin exactly a year and nine days after its formation. Prior to that, the New Jersey Department of Health was in charge of the state’s medical marijuana program, which is now under the auspices of the NJCRC.

Brown said the NJCRC has had three major goals:

  • “Shore up and expand access to medicinal cannabis for patients”
  • “Begin new business licensing under the CRC’s regulations which prioritize review and issuance of licenses to social equity businesses and diversely-owned businesses”
  • “Pursuant to the carve-out for ATCs in New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (CREAMM), work with current medical industry to approve ATC expansion”

“We have made great strides in all of these efforts, and when we look at how New Jersey compares against other states, we fair pretty well,” Brown said.

“We had one of the fastest timelines to new business applications (those for non-medical operators), and are on par with states like California, Colorado, Michigan, and Montana with how long it took to begin sales,” Brown asserted.

On average, it took the 12 states that have legalized recreational weed about 16.5 months each to set up their legal markets, the New Jersey Monitor reported.

Prior to approving the beginning of sales, the NJCRC had to be certain that adequate supply was available for patients who hold a medical marijuana card, who are supposed to take priority under state law.

“We have done that, and now are holding ATCs accountable when they don’t live up to the patient access standards required of them,” Brown said.

Brown also addressed another controversial point: the price of marijuana.

New Jersey patients have been complaining for years about the price of medical cannabis, which is sold in strictly portioned units and not available in bulk discounts. Over the first three months of 2022, an eighth of an ounce of cannabis cost medical marijuana patients about $40, a price that is down from late 2021, Brown said.

It currently costs from $50 to $65 to buy an eighth of an ounce of recreational cannabis, Brown noted, which would come out to a minimum of $400 per ounce.

Nationwide, including states with illegal markets only, the estimated price of an ounce of “high quality” marijuana is $326, according to the Oxford Treatment Center.


To date, the NJCRC has received more than 900 applications for retailers, growers, manufacturers and testing laboratories seeking to open cannabusinesses.

The agency has approved 102 conditional licenses and issued 327 “cure letters” to applications that need further processing, and will continue to review additional applications as they come in. That’s in addition to the applications it inherited from the health department, Brown said.

“We completed the 2018 and 2019 RFA process and approved 44 of medicinal cannabis business permits – significantly more than intended at the time of those RFAs to ensure we are meeting patient need,” Brown said.

Half of those awardees are either minority-owned or minority and women-owned, he added – something that has been a major concern among social justice advocates in the cannabis industry.

Wesley McWhite, the NJCRC Director of Diversity and Inclusion, gave more details about the equity aspect of the licenses at the judiciary committee meeting.

According to McWhite:

“While we are only at the beginning of recreational cannabis business licensing, the NJCRC’s policies show promise. We can report that of the 102 conditional licenses, 37 are self-identified as majority Black-owned, and 13 are self-identified as majority Hispanic or Latino/a owned. These conditional license holders must still establish sites and gain municipal approval to convert to a full annual license. Roughly a third of the 102 businesses have owners who have past marijuana convictions.”

McWhite continued:

Of the 44 companies that were recently issued medicinal cannabis awards, half are either minority-owned or minority and women-owned, including four that are black or African American-owned, three that are Hispanic or Latino/a owned, and eight that are Asian-owned. The statute sets goals for medicinal cannabis for 15% minority owned permit-holders and 15% women or disabled veteran-owned. If all these awardees complete the permitting process, New Jersey’s medicinal cannabis market will be 19% minority-owned, 19% minority and women-owned, and 33% women-owned.”

“Cannabis legalization is only one part of addressing issues caused by the War on Drugs,” McWhite added. “Legalization alone is not enough to undo centuries of systemic exclusion from economic, political and social opportunities.”


Meanwhile, some cannabis advocates continue to demand that the state give residents – and patients – the right to grow cannabis at home.

New Jersey’s current laws do not allow individual residents to cultivate marijuana. And those who do can face steep consequences, according to the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey, one of the groups that spoke during last week’s judiciary committee meeting.

“Not only can a person be sentenced to prison for five years for just one plant, their children can be removed, they can lose employment and benefits, housing and education, and be subject to heavy fines,” the group recently said, adding that legal representation needed to battle the charges can typically cost more than $25,000.

This punishment in New Jersey is excessive and does not fit the crime, and Senate President Nick Scutari seems to think this is OK, as he doesn’t see home grow happening any time soon and prefers protecting industry over voters,” the group charged, referencing comments Scutari made during a lunch event in January.

According to the coalition, several bills that would legalize home growing have been introduced in the state Legislature. They include: