by Dana DiFilippo, New Jersey Monitor
January 27, 2022

When voters opted to legalize marijuana in New Jersey in November 2020, insiders expected the pot-loving public would be able to buy recreational weed right around now.

But at the monthly meeting of the state Cannabis Regulatory Commission Thursday, the man overseeing the industry’s creation in New Jersey said the state is still far from commercial sales of marijuana.

Jeff Brown, the commission’s executive director, put the blame on entrepreneurs, saying those who have applied to open recreational dispensaries haven’t provided proof of municipal buy-in, as they were required to do by Jan. 6.

More than 400 towns — about 71% of the state’s municipalities — have passed ordinances prohibiting cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, wholesale distribution, delivery, and dispensing, according to a USA Today Network analysis of municipal marijuana ordinances. Only about 100 municipalities — primarily in South and Central Jersey — have passed ordinances allowing legal weed dispensaries, the analysis found.

Another hurdle is a requirement that applicants show they can meet medical demand for marijuana, and still have enough for recreational buyers, Brown said. Some applicants have not shown they can meet operational capacity, ensure patients get served first, and expand access if demand soars higher than expected, Brown added.

“There’s a level of frustration here at the commission,” he said. “There’s an effort to pressure us to move forward in a way that’s not compliant with the law. That’s just simply not going to happen.”

Brown did not offer a date when he thinks sales will start. But regulators now are in the process of reviewing applications; running criminal background checks; checking certifications of businesses said to be owned by minorities, women, or veterans; and otherwise investigating applicants, according to the commission.

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