The outcome of Monday’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission special meeting could not have come soon enough for New Jersey’s medical cannabis licensees who want to serve adult consumers.
With the summer tourism season around the corner, seven companies, who will operate 13 shops, received permission to expand to serve both patients and any consumer who is at least 21 years old. The companies are: Acreage CCF New Jersey, Curaleaf, Columbia Care, Verano, GTI New Jersey, Ascend New Jersey, and TerrAscend, which are some of the biggest cannabis companies, known as multistate operators (MSOs), in the U.S. Each company was allocated three minutes to speak during the meeting to address issues like patient access as the market expands from medical use to include adult use.
The approvals on Monday came after months of pressure from these businesses who decried what they said were unwarranted delays in the rollout of adult use sales. In late March, this culminated in Senate Speaker Nicholas Scutari calling for oversight hearings on the pace of the rollout (those hearings still haven’t been scheduled yet, Cannabis Wire learned on Monday).
Meanwhile, as Cannabis Wire reported, regulators insisted that there were no such delays, that New Jersey’s timeline matched the experiences of other adult use states, and that they were doing what is best for existing patients and for meeting equity goals.
Jeff Brown, executive director of the CRC, said on Monday that the state’s overall cannabis supply has gone up and that there are “consistently more economically priced products in the market.”
As for when these seven companies can begin sales, Brown said it could be less than 30 days, so long as they clear an “operational assessment for regulatory compliance” and pay requisite fees in order to get the final license.
The CRC is still reviewing applications for new conditional adult use retail licenses. At its last meeting, as Cannabis Wire reported, the CRC approved 68 conditional licenses for applicants who want to grow and manufacture cannabis. During Monday’s meeting, another 34 for these license types were approved. For all new adult use licenses, with the exception of the expanded medical cannabis licensees, equity applicants are prioritized.
The state has received 732 applications to-date for adult use cannabis business licenses, from cultivation to sale.
Brown said that regardless of actions taken at Monday’s meeting, there is “unmet demand.”
“This should also be a call to action for new entrepreneurs,” Brown said. “There is unmet demand in this market and we intend to release further data on this as we go forward at the CRC. But, we need new businesses to keep applying.”
In a statement issued after the meeting, CRC Chair Dianna Houenou emphasized the importance of both patient access and public safety.
“Expansion into the adult-use market – with a substantial advantageous start ahead of new applicants – is a privilege that must not be taken lightly. We expect these ATCs to uphold their promises to patients and communities; and that recreational customers will be adequately served,” Houenou said, adding that regulators will be “ holding these businesses accountable to the commitments that led to their approvals. It is now on these expanded ATCs to keep up with demand – both medicinal and recreational.”
On Monday, Scutari said in a statement that while he was “happy to see that progress has been made,” he would continue to move forward with the oversight hearings “so we can get an understanding of the delays, the uncertainties and any obstacles that hinder the full implementation of the cannabis law. The special committee will engage in a fact-finding process with a problem solving mission.”
Scutari specifically identified both the cost of medical cannabis and its availability as “priorities,” and added that banking and equity-related issues “should be reviewed.”