While Governor Chris Christie is spending this summer soaking up the sun on the state’s shutdown beaches, New Jersey’s lawmakers are basking in a different glow - the light at the end of Christie’s gubernatorial tenure, and the bright prospect of a legal weed industry that could bring $300 million in annual tax revenue to the Garden State.
According to the New York Times, Democrat Philip D. Murphy, the early frontrunner to take Christie’s place in the Governor’s mansion, has already expressed his support for recreational legalization, and in turn, state legislators and ganjapreneurs aren’t wasting time anticipating the new head of state.
To start, Democratic state senator Nicholas Scutari has already introduced a bill that would legalize adult possession and the taxed and regulated retail sale of marijuana, but he isn’t holding his breath for a popular vote or Christie’s signature. Instead, the legislator is hoping that the Garden State’s government can end prohibition on their own, and quickly, once Christie becomes just another face on the boardwalk.
“Given his support and the leadership of the house, I think we have obviously a legitimate opportunity to do this in the first 100 days of the Murphy administration for an outright cannabis law done legislatively,” Scutari said.
And while nothing is set in stone, Murphy’s promising progress and vocal cannabis stance has started an early green rush across the east coast hub. New Jersey has had a medical marijuana program on the books since 2010, but with only five dispensaries sanctioned to sell the drug, some experts are worried about the state’s ability to meet the expected demand of recreational legalization.
“New Jersey has one very tough thing in front of it: To go from a medical use to an adult use, it has the thinnest pre-existing infrastructure,” Chris Beals, president of Weedmaps, said about the impending legalization.
Andrew Zaleski, the general manager and a trustee at Breakwater Treatment and Wellness Center, one of the state’s currently operating medical dispensaries, is confident that the company will be able to meet the demand of full-scale legalization using the same methods that led them to success in the medical sector.
“We’re prepared to meet the demand,” Zaleski said. “That’s the biggest question mark for people, and that’s what we’ve been focused on since Day 1: to meet the demand of our current population, which is only our patients. Full legalization would be a new community to serve and one that we know that we can do.”
In Scutari’s legalization plan, Breakwater and the other four medical pot shops would have first dibs on the recreational market, but that isn’t stopping ganjapreneurs from all over the country from dipping their toes in New Jersey’s prospective new income stream. The Green Solution, a Colorado based cannabis retailer, is already looking at the Garden State as a location for their next leg of expansion.
“Our goal is to look at future adult use markets and then develop a franchise model,” said Trent Woloveck, the president of The Green Solution National.
Christie still has a few months of his last term left, but judging by the public reaction to the disgraced Governor’s latest beach stunt, we’re guessing New Jersey residents are ready to do away with Republican leaders and put Murphy in a perfect place to turn Garden State green into pure gold.