TRENTON, NJ (AP) — New Jersey regulators Monday gave the green light to seven facilities already selling medical marijuana to also start selling recreational cannabis, though it’s not exactly clear when sales would begin.
Sales could begin in a few weeks or more, but no specific date was set when the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission voted during a remote meeting. Three of the facilities known as alternative treatment centers are located in the north of the state. Three are in southern and one in central New Jersey.
The timing of the start of sales is partly unclear, since the plants still have to pass an official inspection of their operation and new licenses have to be issued.
According to spokeswoman Pamela Dollak, the New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association, a trade group that champions the alternative treatment centers, estimated recreational retail could begin as early as late April. However, this may vary by location as each center faces compliance and other considerations.
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Retail sales to the general public would begin at 13 dispensaries operated by the seven treatment centers statewide.
To gain approval, the facilities have agreed that the coming influx of recreational shoppers will not disrupt access for patients currently using medical marijuana. The facilities said they would reserve parking for patients and observe hours specifically for patients.
According to the commission, there are about 130,000 medical marijuana patients in the state, with an estimated about 800,000 potential recreational users and fewer than 800,000 estimated “tourism” users.
“These permits were granted on the basis of commitments from the ATCs that we would not see any adverse effects from the enlargement,” said Commission Chair Dianna Houenou. “Expanding into the adult market – with a significant head start over new entrants – is a privilege not to be taken lightly.”
The vote comes about a year after the commission began its work, and a year and a half after voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot to allow recreational marijuana for people 21 and older.
New Jersey Senate President Nicholas Scutari praised the development in a statement Monday, but said the state needs to “take better and timely action.”
He added that he plans to hold oversight hearings to understand the “delays, uncertainties and any obstacles that are impeding full implementation of the cannabis law.”
New Jersey is one of 18 states, along with the District of Columbia, that have legalized recreational marijuana. There are also 37 states, including New Jersey, that have legalized medical marijuana.
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