New Jersey and New York—which legalized cannabis on Feb. 22, 2021, and March 31, 2021, respectively—have yet to officially get the ball rolling in terms of launching their legal markets.
It’s clear that the governors in both states have been feeding false promises to prospective consumers, all of whom are still enduring a tedious wait to legally purchase recreational bud. Fortunately, new reports indicate that both states are inching ever-closer to serving cannabis consumers, many of whom are, understandably, getting impatient.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy stated that adult-use cannabis sales will start “within weeks.” Meanwhile, on Feb. 22, 2022, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation establishing a conditional cultivation and processing recreational licensing structure.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s recently been happening in both markets.
Under New Jersey’s adult-use cannabis law, medical cannabis dispensaries that are currently operating across the state—where hundreds of thousands of people have enrolled to receive cannabis-based treatments—are readily licensed to carry out adult-use commerce. However, to gain authorization, licensees must obtain “local approvals” before proving “that they’ve got the supply for their medical customers first and foremost.”
Soon after this happens, Murphy is optimistic that the standalone retail adult-use cannabis market will go into full effect. Murphy is also “open-minded” to permitting a home cultivation option for consumers in the foreseeable future. He has been under immense pressure to launch the market since a legalization referendum was approved in 2020 and he inked his signature onto lawmaker-approved implementation legislation the following year.
“If I had to predict—I’ve said this before, but I mean this literally in this case—I think we’re within weeks. I would hope in March that you’re going to see explicit movement on the medical dispensaries, some number of them being able to sell recreational,” Murphy told reporters during an interview that was published at the end of February, at which point he vowed to launch the market shortly.
Proceeds distribution for New Jersey’s recreational cannabis market is still being contemplated. On the evening of Wednesday, March 2, plans were being hashed out by the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission. During the hourlong virtual public hearing, 15 people shared their opinions on how the state ought to distribute tax revenue once legal adult-use sales officially begin.
“Funding for law enforcement under the guise of community reinvestment is not what we are looking for,” said Ami Kachalia, a campaign strategist with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Jersey, as she joined other commission members in voicing how they don’t want the money to be spent. “We want real community reinvestment that supports the kinds of needs—things like social services and harm reduction and educational support and economic development—that truly increase access to opportunity for New Jerseyans and help communities thrive.”
Feb. 22, 2021, was an exciting day for New York State’s cannabis industry, which is not yet fully active. It was on this day that Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation properly establishing a conditional cultivation and processing recreational cannabis licensing structure. She only spent four days considering the bill before signing it into law.
New Yorkers who want to obtain a conditional adult-use cultivator license must meet the following criteria, as laid out under state law:
Licensed cultivators will be limited to growing 43,560 square feet of flowering canopy outside. Alternatively, they may choose to grow 25,000 square feet of flowering canopy inside an indoor greenhouse. License holders will also be given the opportunity to grow the plant inside and outside, so long as the greenhouse canopy is not bigger than 20,000 square feet and the entire flowering canopy does not exceed 30,000 square feet.
In addition to this, cannabis growers in New York can use 20 artificial lights when growing indoors but will be restricted from operating in counties wherein they are licensed to cultivate hemp (as well as adjacent counties). Processing will only be given the go-ahead in the precise location where a processor has received licensing to cultivate hemp, unless otherwise certified by the Office of Cannabis Management.
Up until June 1, 2023, conditional cannabis cultivators can “minimally” process cannabis flower. A recreational license will not be required by conditional growers and processors who distribute their cannabis around New York State. Based on the licensure terms, both conditional licensees must partake in a social equity mentoring program as a condition of licensure.
New York state residents aged over 18 who are female, from a community that has been disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition, a minority, a service-disabled veteran, or a distressed agricultural worker/farmer will be deemed ideal candidates to “train individuals interested in becoming licensed processors with experience in processing techniques and good manufacturing practices.”
Later this year, regulators and lawmakers are expected to approve regulatory structures for new types of licenses. The deadline date for issuing conditional licenses is Dec. 31, 2022 and the conditional program will come to an end on June 30, 2024. The program’s success will be reported on by the Cannabis Control Board no later than Jan. 1, 2023.
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