New Jersey regulators Tuesday approved 30 new licenses to companies who will sell medicinal marijuana, more than doubling the number of retail locations for a growing pool of patients who for years complained about long commutes to obtain legal cannabis.
The Cannabis Regulatory Commission voted to award provisional licenses to 30 companies, 10 each in the central, northern and southern regions of the state.
Tuesday night’s announcement is essentially part two of the medicinal marijuana program’s long-awaited expansion, first proposed in 2019 but delayed by legal challenges.
In October, the commission awarded permits to 14 growers who had applied for a license in 2019. In recognition of the program’s stifled growth and delays, the Commission’s Executive Director Jeff Brown recommended doubling the number of cultivators.
On Tuesday night, Brown once again recommended awarding 30 licenses instead of the 15 dispensaries the state advertised for two years ago.
There are now 23 dispensaries serving an average of about 5,300 patients per retail site and 121,100 registered patients statewide. Patients have long complained the program’s small scale requires them to drive hours, only to find their favorite strain of cannabis gone.
There are about 5,000 patients enrolling every month — a pace that has not abated even with the prospect of a legal market for adult users opening in 2022, Brown said.
What troubles him is that about 2,000 to 2,700 patients leave the program. “The price of cannabis is still high and the number of patients per dispensary is still high,” Brown said.
“We have an opportunity to get this program in line,” he said.
Even with doubling the number of dispensary application awards, New Jersey is still falling behind, according to an analysis by the commission. Using the guide that dispensaries should serve about 2,000 people, the state should have 61 by now and 77 by October 2022, if the enrollment keeps up the same pace.
More competition should bring prices down, the commission has said. An ounce of cannabis at state-regulated dispensaries ranges in price from $320 to $480, according to the analysis.
The licenses are the first step in the process. They licensees must pass financial and criminal background checks and win site approval from the commission before they can open.
The selected applicants for central Jersey (municipality not listed):
Middle Valley Partners LLC;
Monmouth Wellness and Healing LLC;
McGraw Holdings New Jersey, Inc;
Monteverde NJ LLC;
Silver Leaf Wellness LLC;
Garden State Botanicals;
Theory Wellness of NJ LLC
The chosen applicants for north Jersey are:
Community Wellness of NJ;
GR Vending NJ LLC;
Yuma Way NJ LLC;
11th Colony Cannabis;
New Jersey PharmaCanna LLC;
1st Choice Health and Wellness;
Nature’s Touch Med NJ LLC;
NJ Patients Care LLC.
The chosen applicants for south Jersey:
Law Offices of Juliana Diaz LLC;
Eastern Green Inc (doing business as Starbuds)
NJ Kindness LLC;
Restore NJ LLC;
Organic Remedies NJ, LLC;
Circe Therapeutics LLC;
Life Compassion Center Dispensary LLC;
The commission voted 4-0 to approve the awards, with Commissioner Charles Barker abstaining. As he has done at other meetings when he has broken with the rest of the commission, Barker didn’t explain why he withheld his vote.
These are licenses for medical marijuana businesses only, but if they chose, they will have a head start in expanding their customer base to adults 21 and over once the legal market opens some time in 2022.
Even though voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2020 to legalize the possession and sale of marijuana, a bill outlining the legitimate market did not reach Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk until February. The commission did not introduce the first round of regulations until August.
The commission will start accepting applications for the adult-use market from cultivators, manufacturers and testing labs on Dec. 15, and from dispensaries on March 15.