First Public Meeting of the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission
On April 12, 2021, the first public meeting of the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) was held, which officially marks the transfer of power from the NJ Department of Health (DOH) to the CRC over New Jersey’s medical cannabis program and the start of its adult use industry.
In opening remarks, each of the CRC commissioners and its Executive Director emphasized that medical marijuana patients would be given priority over the adult use market. The Executive Director emphasized that there was a need for more alternative treatment centers across the state and a need to have the centers in more accessible locations so that patients could more readily obtain medical marijuana. Each of the commissioners also emphasized the need for equity in the adult use industry and that they would work to ensure that those who have been marginalized by the war on drugs would have the opportunity to participate in the adult use industry.
The Executive Director, Jeff Brown, stated that they are working on preparing a new biennial report on the status of the cannabis industry in New Jersey and an assessment of market demand. The last biennial report issued by the DOH covered the period 2017-2018. That report indicated that the then existing ATCs had an average of under 2,000 pounds of cannabis in inventory; Mr. Brown stated that today the average inventory is approximately 20,000 pounds. In 2018, the original six ATCs had 105,437 total square footage of permitted cultivation space. One projection in that biennial report estimated that by July 2021 there would be 112,000 enrolled patients, and 386,187 square feet of cultivation capacity would be required. With approximately 107,000 patients currently registered, that projection of patients likely will be exceeded and the need for additional cultivation space is clear. Presumably the new market demand assessment to be issued by the CRC will guide the CRC in its decisions on whether and how high to set the cap on the number of adult use licenses that will be made available – the statute set a cap at 37 cultivation licenses but left it to the discretion of the CRC to set any caps on other license classes.
The CRC made clear that their first order of business is to hire their required staff and adopt systems required for the CRC to become operational. They indicated it would take a few weeks to complete hiring the needed staff. After that, the CRC will focus on drafting the detailed regulations that are called for under the adult use and medical cannabis laws. After those are in place, the CRC will focus on the permitting of businesses. The adult use law provides a deadline of August 21 for the CRC to issue its regulations and to begin accepting licenses for adult use businesses. The CRC will need to move rapidly if it is to meet those deadlines.
Jeff Brown noted that a number of municipalities have recently adopted municipal bans on the establishment of cannabis businesses in their jurisdictions. He encouraged the remaining municipalities to wait and see what the regulations say before adopting any local laws and pointed out that banning licensed cannabis businesses in a town does not prevent cannabis from being in the town, it only prevents local leaders from regulating it.
The next meeting of the CRC will be held on April 22, 2021.