March 2022 Regional Cannabis News: NY, NJ Take Strides Toward Sales

Each month, Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition (CWCBExpo) offers this regional news roundup, highlighting some of the significant developments facing the cannabis industry in the Tri-State area and beyond. Get these updates in your inbox by subscribing to our email newsletter, or follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter to get the most recent edition when it’s published.

As the cannabis industry evolves on both the federal and regional level, businesses must stay updated with news surrounding trends, policies, and regulations. Since New Jersey and New York are among the most recent states to legalize cannabis, changes are especially rapid in these states. From anticipation of the start of NJ’s adult-use sales to the crackdown on cannabis “gifting” in NYC, there’s a lot to consider in the northeast this month — read on to learn more.

New Jersey dispensary license application portal opens

Dispensary applicant hopefuls in New Jersey can submit their applications this month.

According to the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC), applications for Class 5 retailers will be accepted on the agency’s website beginning March 15th, 2022, at 9 a.m. Those considering applying for a dispensary license can find many resources on the CRC website, including an application guide.

NJ Gov. Phil Murphy hints at the start of sales

According to an interview with Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ), adult-use cannabis sales in New Jersey could begin within weeks.

Ever since voters first approved cannabis legalization in a November 2020 ballot referendum, there have been many questions regarding when adult-use sales would start. While the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) did not meet their self-imposed deadline of February 22, 2022, Murphy said advocates could expect movement in the adult-use market in the coming weeks. Adult-use sales at existing medical cannabis dispensaries, in particular, are expected to launch as soon as March.

“If I had to predict — I’ve said this before, but I mean this literally in this case — I think we’re within weeks,” Murphy said during his interview on WBGO. “I would hope in March that you’re going to see explicit movement on the medical dispensaries, some number of them being able to sell recreational.”

Any medical dispensary looking to transition into the adult-use market would require local approval.

“They’ve got to prove they’ve got the supply for their medical customers. I hope shortly thereafter, the standalone recreational marijuana operators [will open],” Murphy continued.

New York approves hemp farmers to grow cannabis

New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D-NY) signed a bill on Feb. 22 to allow hemp farmers in the state to apply for two-year licenses to grow high-THC cannabis.

The law will allow current hemp growers to apply for a conditional adult-use cannabis cultivator license before the official opening of the recreational cannabis market. The legislation includes environmental standards and requires licensees to train people of color, women, disabled veterans, and other social equity applicants.

According to the Associated Press, the new law, sponsored by Rep. Michelle Hinchey (D-Saugerties), is a way for the state to start gearing up supply for what is predicted to be one of the country’s largest legal markets. In addition, the law offers support to hemp farmers, who have struggled since the collapse in hemp prices due to oversupply and regulatory uncertainty following legalization.

While it’s been nearly a year since New York legalized cannabis for adult-use, the legal market currently accounts for just 10 medical cannabis dispensaries.

“The measure will jump-start the safe, equitable, and inclusive new industry we are building,” Gov. Hochul stated in the news release.

New York cracks down on cannabis “gifting”

Following in the footsteps of other states that have legalized adult-use cannabis but not rolled out licenses for retail businesses just yet, some New Yorkers have started offering cannabis as a “gift” to people who make a “donation.” Other entities are positioning themselves as clubs and providing cannabis to paying members. Now, though, the state has issued a warning on these businesses to pave the way for the regulated market.

New York’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) has sent cease-and-desist letters to more than two dozen enterprises, ordering them to stop illegally selling cannabis or face fines, potential criminal charges, and revocation of their prospective licenses.

“We have an obligation to protect New Yorkers from known risks and to strengthen the foundation of the legal, regulated market we are building,” Tremaine Wright, Cannabis Control Board (CCB) chair, noted in a press release. “We will meet the goals of the MRTA to build an inclusive, equitable, and safe industry. Therefore, these violators must stop their activity immediately, or face the consequences.”

NJ discusses details of cannabis consumption lounges

Yet another sign that adult-use licenses are on the verge of rolling out, the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) held a public hearing on Feb. 24th to discuss rules and regulations for consumption lounges, and consider what the legal market will look like.

Under New Jersey’s cannabis legalization law, licensed cannabis retailers will have the exclusive opportunity to offer “social lounges” for patrons to consume cannabis on the same premises of their retail location. Given the current restrictions on where New Jersey residents can consume legally, the committee has acknowledged the benefits of licensed consumption lounges, which provide residents with a safe and comfortable space to consume cannabis.

During the Feb. 24th meeting, officials considered aspects such as financial opportunity, public safety and social equity. Kashavan McKinley, an official in Atlantic City, asked that state cannabis regulators consider mass-consumption areas within the city as a way for the state to capitalize on the new market. McKinley touted Atlantic City to be the convention capital of the East Coast and noted that the cannabis industry “will be driven by conventions.”

While there are no set rules for cannabis lounges just yet, we do know that a total of eight New Jersey towns have opted to allow them, most recently South Orange.

Staying up to date on cannabis in the northeast

As cannabis laws continue to change, states must stay up to date on specific advancements or regulations within their area. For any brand looking to make their mark, staying in the loop with trends and changes is absolutely critical. In addition to following our monthly round-ups, local cannabis businesses can stay up to date by attending conferences like the Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition and networking with industry leaders and promising startups.

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