Legal cannabis sales begin in New Jersey in days

Marking nearly two years since New Jersey voted to amend its constitution to legalize marijuana for recreational use, the state announced this week that the first sales of cannabis for adult use would begin on April 21.

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJ-CRC) announced that it would issue the licenses to seven alternative treatment centers, which would include 13 retail dispensaries in the state.

New Jersey is one of more than a dozen states across the United States that have made cannabis legal in recent years, and is one of four, along with Montana, Arizona and South Dakota. , who voted on this issue to make it legal in the November 2020 election.

Governor Phil Murphy celebrated this moment in Garden State history by sharing a note on his official Twitter account, writing, “This is a historic milestone in our work to create a new cannabis industry.”

Purchase of the recreational substance in the state, which despite protests from activists and experts is still classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic, will be restricted to those aged 21 and over and no medical cards will be issued. required.

“This is an exciting time for New Jersey,” said Jeff Brown, executive director of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission. “The people of New Jersey voted overwhelmingly to have access to cannabis for adult use, and now it’s here… We’ve been intentional and deliberate to do everything in our power to put the market on the right footing.” to start,” he said in a statement issued by the Commission.

When the question was posed to New Jerseyans in the November 2020 election, most voters — 67% to be exact — marked “yes” to recreational legalization on their ballots.

As part of the introduction of the recreational cannabis market, the commission has set out specific social equity criteria that it intends to meet as state instigators in this newly legalized industry that has historically had a disproportionate impact on black and brown communities.

“We promised to build this market on the pillars of social equity and security. Ultimately, we hope to see businesses and a workforce that reflect the diversity of the state and local communities that will be positively impacted by this growing new industry,” wrote Dianna Houenou, President of the commission of the NJ-CRC.

The NJ-CRC says it will continue to evaluate medical cannabis businesses that have been approved in the market based on their diversity in hiring and management, support and engagement with the community, and part of minority vendors or suppliers they contract. .

Scores from these clinics, the commission noted, will be publicly available on their websites and updated frequently.

New Jersey has also launched an initiative under the Recreational Program, similar to other equity programs across the country, that will prioritize applications from businesses led by individuals with prior cannabis convictions (disbarred). or not) and for historically excluded people. groups such as minorities, women and disabled veterans.

Last year, when signing the three bills legalizing and decriminalizing the drug, Governor Murphy underscored the difference he hoped this industry could make in restoring fairness to the East Coast state.

“We now have laws that will usher in a new industry based on fairness; reinvest dollars in communities; and promote both public health and public safety,” he said after signing the legislation.

A portion of the funds from the newly legalized market will, as the governor pointed out, be pumped back into communities that have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition.

These regions, called “impact zones,” will receive funding from two sources of revenue: a royalty that cannabis producers will have to pay, and a 60% sales tax on legal cannabis revenue will also be redirected to this fund.

This state-level legislation, as mentioned, does not change the federal marijuana use laws. Nationally, the Drug Enforcement Agency still groups marijuana alongside substances like heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and ecstasy, meaning it shares the description of being a drug. “with no currently accepted medical use and high potential for abuse”. ”.

This classification, however, could change. Etc.

Democrats, led by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer with Senators Cory Booker and Ron Wyden, have indicated that a new bill for the federal legalization of marijuana could be introduced this year.

The bill, titled the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, would remove “cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances and help fix our criminal justice system,” including other measures.

The goal, Sen Schumer said in a statement Thursday, is to officially introduce the bill before the August recess.

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