New Jersey Hands Recreational Cannabis Market to MSOs

Curaleaf’s first store in New Jersey opened in Bordentown last August.

In a disappointing move, New Jersey's Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) has decided to allow the state's current medical retailers to begin selling to the broader recreational market. The buy-in price is $1,000,000.

The beneficiaries of this decision are Acreage CCF New Jersey, Ascend Wellness, Columbia Care, Curaleaf, Green Thumb Industries, TerrAscend and Verano.

The CRC announced a delay in licensing on March 24. Pushback came fast. The MSOs' alternative treatment centers (i.e. ATCs or dispensaries), stocked with product, were not happy. 

It was hoped the delay would provide more time to develop a diverse and equitable industry. 

"It's a thoughtful delay," Robert DiPisa, a lawyer at Cole Schotz, said in March. "If we open the floodgates too early, and we run into some serious supply chain issues, we may have to hit pause."

The CRC's Charles Barker added: "We don't want to rush this and get it wrong." 

However, the New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association voiced its frustration, stating: "We admit to being disappointed... In November 2020, New Jerseyans made it very clear that they wanted a safe and legal adult-use cannabis marketplace in the state. It goes without saying that no one could have foreseen that some 16 months later, we would still be waiting to see this come to fruition.”

"We don't want to rush this and get it wrong." 

CRC executive director Jeff Brown left the door open for the MSOs, commenting: "Our goal is to work with the industry and the industry to work with us so at the very next CRC meeting we have a cohort of ATCs that are turn-key to launch this market here, simply pending a vote by this commission. If for any that are still not there, hopefully (they’ll be) ready for conditional approval pending certain timelines and regulatory milestones that we can work to get done.”

Gov. Phil Murphy said the delay wouldn't last long and wanted to make sure “we have an industry that looks like our state, that is not just in words but in action, a step tangibly to undoing the War on Drugs. That’s easier said than done. We want to get it more right than any other state.”

Medical-cannabis companies in New Jersey have stores under the following names: Apothecarium, Ascend, The Botanist, Breakwater ATC, Columbia Care/The Cannabist, Curaleaf, Garden State Dispensary, Harmony, Rise and Zen Leaf. There are 23 retail stores in the state. 

New Jersey voters passed legalization by 67% in 2020. In February 2021, the legislature reaffirmed that vote, offically legalizing it in the Garden State. 

This article was originally posted on March 25. It has been updated.


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.