Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea that involes New Jersey and Cannabis legalization.
New Jersey launched the state’s first legalized sales of recreational cannabis on Thursday, roughly a dozen medical cannabis dispensaries across the state, opened its doors to customers 21 and older for legal sales.
18 states have legalized recreational cannabis, but New Jersey is one of the few on the East Coast to do so. New York legalized recreational cannabis in 2021 and is set to begin sales later this year. Under the state’s laws, recreational cannabis customers can legally buy up to an ounce of cannabis per sale for smoking; or up to five grams of concentrates, resins or oils; or 10 packages of 100 milligrams of edible items.
Executive director of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, Jeff Brown, which oversees licensing, growing, testing and sales of cannabis in New Jersey, cautioned buyers to expect long lines at first, and to “start low and go slow” with their purchases and consumption. It is illegal under state law to possess more than six ounces at any time, and illegal to drive while high on cannabis. Also, because federal law still bans cannabis possession, buyers in New Jersey cannot legally transport it outside the state.
State voters in November 2020 approved a referendum legalizing cannabis, and the State Legislature legalized it in 2021. That was followed by months of creating industry regulations and licensing applicants to open dispensaries.
The first approvals for recreational sales were issued to medical cannabis dispensaries, which have been permitted for years to sell to buyers with medical permission and are often owned by large cannabis corporations. Scores of smaller cultivators and manufacturers have received state-issued conditional licenses in the past month, but have yet to set up shops and get approvals from local municipalities.
Legalizing recreational cannabis will bring the new jobs and tax revenue. There was a social justice premium as well: fewer marijuana arrests disproportionately affecting people of color. Much of the cannabis sales taxes will go toward Black and Latino neighborhoods historically affected by marijuana-related arrests. There will also be a “social equity excise fee” to fund initiatives addressing racial and economic injustice.“This could be the beginning of a green rush,” said Mayor Andre Sayegh of Paterson, the largest city in New Jersey to see legal recreational sales begin on Thursday. Shops in the larger cities of Newark and Jersey City have not yet opened.
Opponents of legal cannabis have expressed concerns about the possible dangers of legalizing recreational cannabis. Nick DeMauro who is a former police detective in Bergen County, N.J., said the legalization of recreational cannabis could be “sending a mixed message to young people saying, ‘If adults can do it, why can’t we? Another concern is the difficulty in policing dangerous driving by cannabis users because “it’s hard to measure if someone is under the influence,” said DeMauro, who runs Law Enforcement Against Drugs & Violence, a group that assists police departments in educating people about the dangers of cannabis use. “We need to look at this with extreme caution,” he said. “You’re legalizing a psychoactive substance with major issues and we need to keep our communities safe.”