Legal Marijuana Sales Will Start Next Thursday in New Jersey

All adults will be able to purchase cannabis at certain medical-marijuana dispensaries starting April 21.

The first sales of recreational, adult-use cannabis in New Jersey will start next Thursday, marking the culmination of a year-long effort to legalize marijuana and to curtail the racially unbalanced penalties for possessing the drug.

At least a half-dozen medical marijuana dispensaries are planning to open their doors to all adults on April 21 after winning final approval this week from New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission.

“This is a historic step,” Gov. Philip D. Murphy wrote Thursday on Twitter as he announced the official start date.

Enthusiasm within the industry was palpable.

Dispensaries in Bloomfield and Paterson, which are both about 20 miles from Midtown Manhattan, were making plans to entertain customers waiting in line with a D.J., doughnut truck, and a steel drum band.

The end of prohibition is coming to New Jersey,” said Ben Kovler, chief executive of Green Thumb Industries, which operates both dispensaries. “We’re prepared for a tidal wave of demand.”

He estimated that New Jersey, the second state on the East Coast to begin adult-use sales, could eventually become a $3 billion industry.

“The war on drugs was a failure for people of color,” he said. “This is going to create a lot of wealth, for a lot of people.”

While eager for the added revenue, political leaders said they were bracing for the potential for extra crowds and car traffic.

In Maplewood, where a medical marijuana dispensary that operates on the main street was preparing to open to all adults, the mayor, Dean Dafis, said he held a meeting Thursday afternoon to finalize a crowd-control strategy.

Maplewood’s township council is expected to consider a resolution early next week giving permission for the dispensary, the Apothecarium, to open for adult-use sales at 10 a.m. next Thursday.

“We’re thrilled,” Mr. Dafis, a Democrat, said. “This is the right thing. Legalization and decriminalization is long overdue.”

Towns that permit cannabis businesses to operate may charge an extra 2 percent tax in addition to state taxes and surcharges.

“The revenue is a good thing for the city of Elizabeth,” said J. Christian Bollwage, the mayor of Elizabeth, the state’s fourth-largest city with a dispensary on Route 9, about three miles from Newark Liberty International Airport.

“We’re going to be surrounded by it, so why not get the revenue?”

New Jersey voters approved a referendum legalizing marijuana in November 2020, but it was not until this week that the commission established a pathway for the first legal sales of adult-use, recreational cannabis. On Monday, seven companies and 13 medical-marijuana dispensaries they operate got the go-ahead to sell their products to all adults.

Not all are expected to be ready to open by next Thursday; state officials said a full list of the stores that will open April 21 would be posted on the commission’s website as soon as dispensaries confirmed their plans.

Each cannabis company had to demonstrate it had enough of a supply for both medical and recreational customers as well as plans in place to ensure that patients were not edged out by the flood of customers expected in the early days of legal sales in the densely populated region.

Ken Wolski, a nurse and the executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana, said he was satisfied that New Jersey had prioritized the state’s 170,000 registered medical-marijuana patients.

“I’m happy that sales are starting now,” Mr. Wolski said. “The goal of our organization is to get this essential medicine to the most people.”

Still, one of the biggest cannabis companies in the state, Curaleaf, suggested that medical-marijuana clients might want to avoid crowds by stocking up on marijuana this week. “The Garden State is about to get greener, so if you’re a medical patient, make sure you shop now to avoid the lines — and get the medicine you need,” an advertisement read.

New Jersey’s initial legal sales will occur only at medical-marijuana dispensaries, which are run mainly by large multistate and international cannabis corporations.

But Dianna Houenou, chairwoman of the commission, reiterated her commitment to creating an industry that helps to alleviate the harm caused by the war on drugs, particularly in communities of color.

“Ultimately, we hope to see businesses and a workforce that reflects the diversity of the state,” Ms. Houenou said in a statement. Now adults in New Jersey will be able to buy weed for sale online without restrictions.

New Jersey grants priority consideration to businesses operated by people with marijuana convictions as well as companies run by minorities, women and disabled veterans.

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