N.J. Cannabis Regulatory Commission adopts rules for recreational marijuana industry

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission voted Thursday to adopt the first set of rules for cultivation, manufacture and sale of recreational marijuana in the state, it announced.

The adoption of the rules sets the stage for the opening of applications for cannabis business licenses, which represents the next step in the process toward personal-use sale.

“We were ambitious with our timeline to make personal-use cannabis available, and I am pleased the commission was able to create these regulations in record time,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a prepared statement. “The regulations adopted today reflect the CRC’s commitment to transparency and social equity.”

The rules address barriers to entry that have caused problems in some markets around the country, the CRC said, including:

  • Prioritizing applications from certified minority-, women- and disabled veteran-owned businesses, and from applicants who live or will operate in one of several designated Impact Zones or economically disadvantaged areas;
  • Flexible application requirements for microbusinesses and those applying for conditional licenses;
  • Application fees as low as $100.

“Prioritizing applications from women and minority entrepreneurs, from business owners living in economically disadvantaged communities and from small business owners will ensure the market grows the way we envisioned — in a way that is socially equitable and reflective of our state’s diversity,” Murphy said.

The rules are effective immediately upon their filing with the Office of Administrative Law, the CRC said, and will remain effective for up to one year.

“All the commissioners have worked diligently since the CRC was launched in April to bring these rules to fruition,” CRC Chair Dianna Houenou said in a statement. “We know that there is a lot of interest in getting this market up and running, and we were duty-bound to do it right. We are honored to be able to lay the foundation for an economically sound, socially equitable and safe market.”

Read the complete rules here.

Charles Gormally, co-chair of the Cannabis Industry Practice at Roseland-based Brach Eichler, spoke at the meeting. Afterward, he issued a statement.

“Today, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission issued its first round of what is promised to be an ongoing series of government regulations that will govern the businesses producing and offering the adult use of cannabis in New Jersey,” Gormally said. “The CRC made good on its promise to center the development of the industry upon the goal of providing opportunity and access to this new business to those that have been impacted by the consequences of a generation of failed cannabis prohibition.”

However, he did have some hesitations about the rules:

“While beginning to answer some of the questions that business participants have, many details of the process and availability of licenses remain unknown,” he said. “They will be subject to further rulemaking and how the CRC evaluates sufficient supply and availability of cannabis. The challenge for the CRC over the long term is to candidly assess whether the regulations they developed to open the access to those most negatively impacted have succeeded or merely constructed a different type of barrier to entry.”

The New Jersey CannaBusiness Association praised the effort, overall.

“The CRC has worked under extraordinary pressure to get to this moment,” NJCBA President Edmund DeVeaux said in a statement. “CRC members and staff should be commended for their tireless efforts and willingness to listen over the last several months. Focusing on microbusinesses and social equity first is the right direction to head in. The NJCBA has always stressed the importance of widening the market to allow as many cannabis entrepreneurs as possible. We’ve also spoken time and again about the need to ensure that the communities hurt most by the failed War on Drugs are fairly represented in this space. These new rules begin to tackle both of those concerns.”

The CRC will begin accepting applications for cannabis business licenses at a date to be announced, it said. Gormally noted that the CRC has not determined how many licenses it will issue beyond a limitation of 37 grow-facility licenses.

At least one business is eager to get started.

“We are excited to see the state continue its progress toward adult use,” Patrik Jonsson, regional president of the Northeast for Curaleaf, said in a statement. “New Jersey has the potential to be one of the biggest cannabis markets on the East Coast, and Curaleaf has been expanding our operations in the state to prepare for the market’s growing needs. We are strategically positioned to be leaders in the industry, with dispensaries ideally located along each of New Jersey’s borders. Through our new cultivation site in Winslow, we have tripled our cultivation capacity to ensure we are able to serve both our existing medical patients and the rapidly expanding market.”