Only two months after awarding ten cultivation permits and four vertically integrated licenses, New Jersey regulators approved 30 more medical cannabis dispensaries – ten provisional dispensary licenses each in central, northern, and southern regions. These new licenses will double the state’s medical cannabis market.
It is unknown how many are minority-, female- or veteran-owned. Still, the application scoring was weighted in favor of those applicants and applicants with job-creation plans and collective-bargaining experience.
“The intent in 2019 had been to award 15 dispensaries based on our assessment of patients’ access to medicine in the New Jersey market – considering price and location – we believe that would be inadequate,” Jeff Brown, executive director of the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission said in a news release. The number of registered patients goes up every month, and the statute charges the commission to meet that need.
According to New Jersey’s website, there are over 120,000 registered patients – up from 44,000 patients in 2019. The additional medical cannabis dispensaries will strengthen the state’s medical cannabis market ahead of its 2022 launch of recreational sales.
New Jersey’s 23 dispensaries serve an average of 5,300 patients per retail site and 121,100 registered patients statewide. Regulators typically want about 2,000 people per dispensary. Despite this increase, the state is far short of 61 much-needed dispensaries and 77 total dispensaries by October 2022.
This shortage of dispensaries has caused complaints from patients that they are required to drive for hours only to find their preferred cannabis is already gone.
Brown says approximately 5,000 patients enroll every month. That pace has not diminished even with the announcement of a recreational market coming in 2022. Brown’s current concern is that almost 3,000 patients are leaving the program.
“We have an opportunity to get this program in line,” Brown said. “The price of cannabis is still high, and the number of patients per dispensary is still high.”
The commission is confident that more competition should bring prices down.
Despite insistence from multistate operators that they produce enough to supply the coming recreational market, regulators are holding off submitting those licenses.
This recent expansion follows a two-year delay from legal battles and warnings by industry experts that medical cannabis supplies were insufficient as New Jersey expands into an adult-use market. New Jersey has not yet started taking cultivation, processing, and testing-lab applications for the projected $2 billion-plus adult-use market.
Although the state’s adult-use law stipulates that recreational sales begin by mid-February 2022, it’s unclear whether New Jersey will allow sales that soon. Residents will have to continue waiting to purchase their favorite strains in child-resistant packages. Residents will have to continue waiting to purchase their favorite strains in child-resistant packages.
Despite the prolonged opening of the state’s cannabis market, advocates believe New Jersey can experience a growth in cannabis tourism.