New Jersey’s senate president is calling for the adult use sales rollout to be put under a microscope in the coming weeks.
Senate President Nicholas Scutari, perhaps the legislature’s loudest supporter of cannabis for medical and personal use, is demanding “explanations” for what’s holding up adult use sales. Scutari was a lead sponsor of New Jersey’s medical cannabis bill, which became law in 2010, and the state’s voter push for adult use in 2020.
“These delays are totally unacceptable,” Scutari said in a statement Tuesday. “We need to get the legal marijuana market up and running in New Jersey. This has become a failure to follow through on the public mandate and to meet the expectations for new businesses and consumers.”
Scutari is aiming to form a bi-partisan special committee that will include an “accounting from CRC officials,” according to a Senate Democrats announcement, and also members of the cannabis industry. Scutari will also seek Assembly participation.
At issue is the timing of the rollout of sales. Last week, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission approved 68 conditional licenses for applicants who want to grow and manufacture cannabis, but tabled a measure that would have allowed existing Alternative Treatment Centers (what New Jersey calls medical cannabis dispensaries) to expand to serve non-medical consumers. Regulators have repeatedly expressed concerns over supply issues for patients and whether ATCs could rise to meet the flood of demand that will inevitably follow the first days and weeks of cannabis sales.
CRC executive director Jeff Brown pointed to the deluge at ATCs during stay-at-home orders amid the pandemic’s early days, noting that cooperation between regulators and industry ensured “there were no long term closures of facilities” despite clear stressors on the market.
“There were no market-wide shortages of products, and patients could continue to access their medicine,” Brown said at last Thursday’s meeting. “We are once again at the precipice of an event that will bring stressors on the market, albeit for a much more positive reason, the launching of recreational cannabis sales, but nonetheless an event that needs to be planned for, to ensure that patients can continue to access their medicine.”
After last week’s meeting regulators added an April 11 special meeting to the calendar. Brown said at last week’s meeting that the goal is to “work” with the cannabis industry so that at the “very next” meeting, “we have a cohort of ATCs that are turnkey ready to launch this market here, simply pending a vote by this commission.”
“We may not be 100 percent there today, but I assure you we will get there,” Brown said before the board officially tabled the measure on ATC expansion. “I assure you the staff is committed to doing this, but we need the industry to work with us. We’re almost there. We have a few things to address, and when we address them, I’m happy to return to this body with a further update.”
The agenda for the April 11 meeting has not yet been set, Brown told Cannabis Wire.
The CRC’s “goal is to help ATCs meet the criteria that ensures the needs of medicinal patients are met, and to ensure across all providers that there is not a strain on supply, that municipal compliance is satisfied, and that the market can open safely and so that equity is prioritized,” Brown told Cannabis Wire.
In response to the outcry over delays, Brown added, “No date has ever been issued for the opening of recreational sales, so there is no delay.”
Brown also shared a chart with various states’ cannabis timelines, from the passage of a law to the launch of sales. While some states, like Illinois and Nevada, took 8 months, others, like Massachusetts and Alaska took 23. New Jersey is aiming for 14.
Voters legalized cannabis on Election Day 2020.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include Brown’s comments.