New Jersey voters approved Public Question 1 to legalize adult-use cannabis at the November 2020 ballot box. It wasn’t until Friday, though, that the first dispensaries finally got the go-ahead to begin selling the plant to all adults.
The breakthrough was followed by even better news: the first weekend of cannabis sales went on about as smoothly as can reasonably be expected.
Maplewood-based Apothecarium dispensary, located just 20 miles away from New York City welcomed nearly 1,000 buyers on both Friday and Saturday. Dozens arrived before the adult-use marijuana store’s 9 a.m. opening, waiting in line for first dibs on the plant.
“Those who indulge in cannabis have been waiting for this day for a very long time,” said Jason Sommers, an Apothecarium employee. In an interview with the Guardian, Sommers called the moment “historic and beautiful.”
Dispensaries celebrated the moment with DJs, food trucks, and a host of free goodies for customers. Tote bags, lighters and T-shirts were among the goodies doled out.
The state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission said received no reports of significant access issues or supply shortages over the weekend, and investigated only a few minor complaints.
Unlike for the sales launch in most other adult-use marijuana states, police in New Jersey helped assist with this weekend’s festivities. Uniformed local police officers stood at the entrances of the Apothecarium and other dispensaries across the state, according to the Guardian, to control pedestrian traffic and assist buyers with parking their vehicles.
A police spokesman in Jersey City, which neighbors New York City, said that traffic violations and DUI arrests involving marijuana “did not greatly exceed what we expected or what is typical for a weekend.”
While only 13 dispensaries have so far been allowed to begin selling adult-use, New Jersey law calls for dozens more to open – likely in the coming weeks.
A cut of recreational marijuana tax revenue will be earmarked for low-income communities across the state, and regulators will prioritize adult-use license applicants from women and minority owned businesses. The state will also expunge the records of New Jersey residents with past cannabis-related convictions for possession of amounts now considered legal.
Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday at a dispensary opening in Elizabeth that the sales launch was a step forward for creating a cannabis industry “that reflects the diversity of our state, protects access for medical marijuana patients, prioritizes justice, and promotes equal opportunities for communities of color.”