Few states rival New Jersey right now in terms of boisterous pre-legislative activity. The world is watching as NJ careful weighs the pros, cons, and neutral implications of regulations that have been executed in other regions.

Bills, Bills, Bills

We were waiting a bit for the latest bill from Assemblyman Reed Gusciora to be released, even though many provisions had already leaked out via the media beforehand. Now that it has been formally put forth, there are 5 bills floating between the Assembly and State Senate. 

A = submitted to the Assembly, S = submitted to the Senate

The original adult-use bill put forth by Senator Scutari, S3195, expired at the end of 2017 and was re-proposed as S830 in order to be eligible for consideration in 2018. Historically, in states with multiple bills proposed, we see the final approved bill reflect a combination of items and priorities, but we will see how NJ structures the process from here.
We will edit this post for relevance as things progress.

Medical Expansion

While we were all swarming around adult-use possibilities, Bill A3437 dropped back on 3/5, sponsored by Reed Gusciora and Tim Eustace. It proposed the expansion of the medical program in its entirety, suggesting that 12 new medical licenses be added, potentially bringing NJ’s Medical Operations total to 18.

Then on 3/22, Herb Conaway Jr. and Carol Murphy sponsored Bill A3740, which proposes authorization of  “medical marijuana for treatment of any diagnosed condition; revises requirements for physicians to authorize qualifying patients; and revises requirements for alternative treatment center operations and permitting.”

This is great news for all parties involved, as it expands patient access, and further defines expectations for the med program once adult-use legislation advances. As of today, there is even greater reason to be encouraged by medical program expansion, and close sources are pointing to Tuesday for the unveiling of the recommendations that will be made as a result of the audit that Gov. Murphy ordered to assess the program’s current state.  

Adult-use Headway

While rumblings about delays have surfaced, all messaging from Gov. Murphy’s office still indicates a forward trajectory for adult-use legislation. While his “100 days” goal may have turned into a “by the end of the year” goal, NJ should still be encouraged by this, as it’s likely a more realistic timeline in order to properly explore all of the moving parts. It is our belief that NJ stands to benefit most if mayors and town council men and women wait to make a decision at this time regarding whether to permit or ban cannabis businesses from their towns. 

It appears that licensing fees could be set lower than once proposed in order to make it more accessible to a wider range of applicants. We are also encouraged by the number of licenses for dispensaries, with the most recent bill proposing up to 400 locations.

Comparative Retail Stats (accurate as of 2/28/18)

  • To date, Colorado has 518 licensed retail location, serving a population of 5.54 million people. That’s 1 dispensary for every 11,000 residents.
  • Likewise, Washington has 467, serving 7.28 million. That’s 1 dispensary for every 15,500 residents.
  • Oregon, an example of over-saturation that NJ seeks to avoid, has 535, serving 4.09 million. That’s 1 for every 7,600 residents.
  • If NJ passes a bill allowing 400 retail locations as proposed for its population of 8.98 million people, they would have 1 dispensary for every 22,450 residents. 

Complicated Issues that Also Need To Be (and certainly can be) Adequately Addressed:

  • Employer drug testing 
  • Pros & Cons surrounding possible home-grow regulations
  • Participation of women, minorities and historically underserved populations
  • Measures in place for protection of minors
  • Taxation and black market proliferation
  • Search and seizure laws
  • Energy use regulations & other environmental factors

How Entrepreneurs can Contribute to a Valuable Discussion

NJ’s event calendar is growing, as various pro and con groups host hearings to discuss what New Jersey’s path toward program expansion will look like. If you’re local and can swing it, go to these hearings. Voice your opinion, and listen openly to the opinions of others, even if you don’t agree. The more common ground we can find along the way, the better chance NJ stands to progress toward legislation that represents the collective priorities of patient, adult users, law enforcement, and legislative bodies.

The Assembly Oversight Committee will be hosting 3 hearings, at various locations throughout NJ:

  • 4/14 – Middlesex County College
  • 4/21 – Rowan University – we’ll see you there!
  • 5/12 –  Bergen Community College