Adult-use cannabis legalization will not make its way through the New Jersey legislature this year, but if Governor Phil Murphy has it his way, the Garden State will still add more than 100 legal weed businesses to the yellow pages.
According to the Asbury Park Press, Gov. Murphy’s administration announced that it is looking for 108 new cannabis business applications to help fill in gaps in the state’s rapidly expanding medical marijuana program. Currently, there are only six active medical marijuana businesses across New Jersey, with each company running a vertically integrated system of cultivation, processing, and dispensary sales.
“It will mean an enormous difference for patients,” Murphy said at a press conference in Hackensack on Monday. “We have a demand-supply imbalance.”
When Murphy took office in January 2018, there were 17,000 registered medical marijuana patients in New Jersey. During Murphy’s tenure, that number has nearly tripled, and currently stands at 47,000 patients.
Murphy’s plan is separate from a medical marijuana expansion initiative currently being debated in the state legislature, which most experts expect to pass before the current session is out. That bill, The Honig Act, would expand the state’s qualifying conditions and possession limits, potentially welcoming tens of thousands more New Jersey patients into the program. Under the Honig Act, the state Department of Health would determine the number of cannabusiness licenses awarded. But with the program already growing exponentially, Murphy wants to expand cultivation farms, processing sites, and dispensaries as soon as possible.
“Patients cannot continue to wait for access to life-changing medical treatment, and today’s announcement is an important step toward ensuring sustainable and affordable access," Alyana Alfaro, a spokesman for Murphy’s office, told the Asbury Park Press. "The Department of Health is overseeing the expansion of the Medicinal Marijuana Program to ensure that it is done responsibly and in a way that puts the needs of patients first."
Breaking from the state’s standing vertical integration standards, Murphy’s new announcement calls for 24 cultivators, 30 manufacturers, and 54 dispensaries to be spread strategically across the state.
Jersey residents will still have to wait for the Honig Act to pass before any of the Garden State’s medical cannabis rules are actually changed. And they will also have to wait until the next election to potentially legalize weed for adult-use. But in the meantime, it looks like more medicinal pot shops will start popping up along the turnpike sooner than later.
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