New Jersey is jumping aboard the cannabis train. Voters in the state recently legalized adult-use; anticipated annual sales are expected to top a billion dollars by 2024.
Whether or not this development will push other neighboring states, like Maryland and Virginia, to legalize recreational cannabis remains to be determined. Still, marijuana advocacy groups like the Marijuana Policy Project believe this may be influential. “The passage of this ballot measure positions New Jersey to take the lead in the Northeast and will push neighboring states, like New York and Pennsylvania, to take action on marijuana legalization,” Marijuana Policy Project Executive Director Steve Hawkins said in a statement.
Existing medical marijuana licensees will likely get the first crack at recreational licenses. Business opportunities for auxiliary businesses — like accountants, attorneys, lighting, and nursery suppliers — should expand accordingly, which is good for the local and state economy.
The issue is the timeline.
How fast can New Jersey roll out a new industry? In an interview with Marijuana Business Daily, Robert DiPisa noted that the state “has been contemplating this for a long time. We’re not going to be starting from square one.” DiPisa is a partner of NJ-based law firm Cole Schotz. He estimates that adult-use sales could kick off as soon as July. However, the state still needs to create a cannabis commission and work through all the regulatory provisions and rules.
As of this writing, a bill to implement a rec market hasn’t yet been introduced, but it is expected to happen sooner rather than later. Regardless, even if everything works perfectly, without delay, the third or fourth quarter of 2021 is a lofty goal. The state’s medical program has 12 operators, and they’re struggling to meet medical demand from patients.
New Jersey already has established industry operators competing to expand in the state. Curaleaf, Green Thumb Industries, and TerrAascend are all proactively expanding both cultivation and processing facilities in the state.
For the adult-use recreational cannabis market to work, the existing medical operators must anticipate the rec demand and produce more products. That’s fine and dandy, but to build out infrastructure to meet unmeasured demand will take planning, funding, and construction, all of which takes time.
The medical patient won’t be denied medicine to meet recreational use demands, though. Existing operators must prove to state regulators that they can meet patient and rec customer demand before they’ll be allowed to expand their customer base beyond medical patients.