New Jersey officials just signed off on new rules that could bring legal cannabis consumption lounges to the Garden State next year.
Like most adult-use states, New Jersey allows adults to buy and use pot legally, but prohibits people from puffing in public. The vast majority of landlords and hotel owners also prohibit their tenants and guests from blazing up on their property, though, so public smoking bans make it hard for locals and tourists to find a place where they can legally smoke weed.
Last week, the state Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) approved a new set of draft regulations that would allow companies or microbusinesses to open exclusive locations where adults can legally consume cannabis products. Interested parties would need to cough up a $1,000 fee to apply for a license, plus another grand to pay for the license if they are approved.
Pot lounges could be indoors or outdoors, but outside spaces would need to be fully enclosed. The proposed regulations will ban all alcohol and tobacco sales and use within these consumption spaces, so patrons will have to stick exclusively to weed. Cannabis lounges will not be allowed to sell food items, either, but hungry stoners would be able to bring their own munchies or order food for delivery.
“Equitable access to cannabis means everyone who wishes to consume has some place they can do that—legally, safely, and responsibly,” said CRC Chair Dianna Houenou, Marijuana Moment reports. “When regulated properly, cannabis consumption areas can strengthen the industry, while giving people more choices on where they consume.”
The general public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed regulations after the CRC officially publishes them in the New Jersey Register. Once the public commentary period is closed, regulators will consider the feedback and draft a final set of regulations. If all goes well, businesses may get a chance to start opening pot lounges next year. But as is often the case in the legal cannabis industry, licensing processes can sometimes drag on for years.
In 2019, Alaska became the first US state to pass regulations allowing legal dispensaries to open public consumption areas. But it still took two years before the first of these lounges actually opened for business. Nevada also signed off on public consumption lounges in 2019, and is only just now handing out its first licenses to applicants. Michigan managed to open its first public consumption site this year, but strict regulations may impede the lounge's success.
Some states have been able to avoid these issues, though. Illinois baked cannabis consumption lounge regulations into its adult-use law, allowing it to open its first weed lounge just weeks after legalizing. And in New York, lawmakers chose to avoid these problems altogether by simply allowing adults to smoke weed anywhere that tobacco use is permitted.