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Marijuana in New Jersey: Top Five Takeaways

New Jersey is one of the smallest US states and is home to almost 9 million people. Marijuana is legal for medical use in the state, but when it comes to recreational use, the state has some of the strictest marijuana laws. It’s seen many unsuccessful attempts at recreational marijuana legalization over the years. Here are the top five things you need to know about marijuana in New Jersey.

Medical marijuana in New Jersey

Medical marijuana has been legal in New Jersey since 2010. A bill allows the use of medical marijuana for very limited conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, Lou Gehrig’s disease, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, HIV/AIDS, severe muscle spasms, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, seizure disorder, and other terminal illnesses where the patient has less than a year to live. The state also recently added post-traumatic stress disorder, migraines, anxiety in autistic patients, Tourette’s syndrome, chronic pain, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Under state law, patients can’t grow their own marijuana plants. They can instead acquire products from state-licensed treatment centers. In 2013, the state started allowing the use of medical marijuana to treat sick children. There are currently six alternative treatment centers in New Jersey. Currently, over 60,000 registered patients in the state use medical marijuana.

Unsuccessful bill on recreational marijuana

Senator Nicholas Scutari introduced a bill to legalize adult-use marijuana in 2018. The bill proposed to allow adults 21 or older to legally use marijuana. It would have allowed people to possess up to 1 ounce of dried flower, up to 16 ounces of cannabis-infused products, any liquid form up to 72 ounces, and concentrates up to 7 grams. The bill also proposed a sales tax of 7%, which would progressively increase every year until it hit 25%. Governor Chris Christie rejected the bill.

When Christie left office in 2018, Democrats considered the bill again with some changes to the propositions. However, the bill went on standby due to disagreements. Both Governor Phil Murphy and Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney supported the legalization of marijuana but disagreed on the aspects of the bill. Final discussions on the bill focused on tax rates and regulatory details for the sale of marijuana. As Murphy and Sweeney couldn’t convince the majority of senators to support the bill, the bid to legalize in the state crumbled in March 2019.

On the ballot in 2020

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After the two-year struggle toward adult-use marijuana legalization, New Jersey is headed to the polls to make a decision. The state has announced the introduction of the crucial ballot question in November 2020.

Sweeney said, “This initiative will bring cannabis out of the underground so that it can be controlled to ensure a safe product, strictly regulated to limit use to adults and have sales subjected to the sales tax.”

If the state says yes, it will likely take at least several months to set up recreational marijuana dispensaries. The Cannabis Regulatory Commission would draw the rules and regulations for the state’s new cannabis industry, and it would also accept applications and approve the required cannabis licenses to set up dispensaries.

The public’s view

At the start of the year, Monmouth University released its survey results on New Jersey’s support for the legalization of recreational marijuana. The survey showed that 62% of adults in New Jersey supported legalization, whereas 32% opposed it. This was an improvement from 59% support and 37% opposition last year. The support for legalization was strongest among the younger generation and Democrats. A total of 72% of Democrats supported the proposal, while only 47% of Republicans supported it.

Those who supported the proposal cited revenue from marijuana tax and its impact on the economy as the biggest reason. The majority of those who opposed the proposal believed that marijuana was harmful and addictive.

New Jersey’s marijuana market

As recreational marijuana is still illegal in the state, the illegal cannabis market enjoys the full market share. New Jersey’s policy outlook estimates the value of the New Jersey marijuana black market to be worth more than $850 million annually. For this reason, the state will mostly approve the recreational licenses of existing licensed medical operators.

Even though the state has yet to get adult-use marijuana legalized, the acquisition game has already started heating up. The potential legalization of marijuana in the state has already attracted players to the market. Canopy Growth (CGC) (WEED) acquired Acreage Holdings and TerrAscend at the start of 2019. Harvest Health (HRVSF) (HARV) also acquired Verano Holdings and CannaPharmacy. CannaPharmacy currently operates a dispensary in Woodbridge, New Jersey.

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