photo by Elsa Olafsson
The Garden State paves the way for next wave of marijuana retailers
Scoring weed for 4/20 this year will be just as much of a hassle as it has been since November, 2020, when New Jersey residents vote to legalize recreational cannabis, but dispensaries only distributed to medical marijuana patients. Oh, what a difference a day makes.
As of 4/21, 13 dispensaries in New Jersey will start selling recreationally to anyone 21 or over. The move marks the largest step in a lengthy battle to make cannabis available for legal sale to recreational users. When New Jersey voters chose to legalize cannabis in 2020, they opened up a pandora's box left regulators, law enforcement, retailers, and users in a hazy, pungent-scented gray area.
At that point, possession of a small amount of marijuana was legal as was personal use. However, there was nowhere to legally buy weed. Dispensaries could only distribute it to their medical patients. This forced recreational users to continue buying illegally and made them susceptible to arrest. When recreational sales begin on April 21, everyone can breathe a smokey cloud of relief. Medical users will remain the priority of pharmacies and will be sold to first, but as long as they receive their supply, 13 outlets will happily peddle cannabis to anyone 21 or over. This makes New Jersey only the second state on the East Coast -- after Massachusetts -- to legalize the sale of recreational cannabis.
“This is a historic step,” tweeted New Jersey Gov. Phil D. Murphy, who fought for years to legalize recreational marijuana.
Previously, the Garden State -- like New York
, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and other regions -- operated in a gray area, in which use and possession were legal, but sales were not. So, businesses sold merchandise -- t-shirts, digital artwork, CBD -- or charged for services -- car rides, club membership, property rental -- and provided cannabis as a "gift" -- an added-on bonus for the consumer. Of course, no one was really fooled by their efforts to squeeze through some imaginary loophole. Some businesses in New York and D.C. actually were shut down by officials (though most looked the other way). Now, recreational users in other regions hope their lawmakers will follow New Jersey's lead, making all the silly subterfuge unnecessary.
As much as dispensaries foam at the mouth for droves of new customers, they are making sure they obey the law of prioritizing consumers who need cannabis for medical reasons. “The Garden State is about to get greener, so if you’re a medical patient, make sure you shop now to avoid the lines — and get the medicine you need,” read an ad for Cureleaf, one of the biggest cannabis dispensaries in New Jersey.
Where to buy recreational cannabis in New Jersey
Thirteen medical-marijuana dispensaries will start recreational cannabis sales on April 21. Customers will be allowed to purchase up to an ounce at a time. Also legal, are personal possession of up to six ounces of weed or 17 grams of hash.
Zen Leaf Dispensary
in Paterson and Bloomfield
in Elizabeth and Lawrence
in Maplewood and Phillipsburg
in Bellmawr and Edgewater Park
in Williamstown and Egg Harbor
in Rochelle Park
Ascend Wellness will likely open additional dispensaries in Fort Lee and Franklin County by the end of 2022 and 2023, respectively. Ascend's medical dispensary in Montclair, previously known as Greenleaf Compassion Center, opened its doors in 2012 as New Jersey's first medical marijuana facility.
What should I expect to pay for recreational cannabis at New Jersey Dispensaries?
Currently, cannabis in New Jersey ranges from about $320 to $480 per ounce. That price is likely to decrease as market competition grows. In addition to the facilities that have been approved, more than 325 other businesses have applied for licenses to sell recreational marijuana. The reason the 13 approved facilities beat all the others to the brimming bowl is that they already had licenses to sell medical marijuana. The weeding-out process for the remaining applicants we be handled by the local town governments and decisions are not expected for 30 to 60 days. Even those that are approved will likely not be ready to open until the end of the year. An additional 102 companies have applied to grow or manufacture weed, but these vendors must first establish a business location and permits from the town in which they settled before their conditional permits will be considered.
As with gas prices and property tax, New Jersey residents are paying a lot for weed compared to other regions. In California, for instance, cannabis runs from about $99 an ounce for bargain-basement quality, $320 for cream of the crop. In the short term, here's how much green Garden City residents should expect to shell out for their green:
$10 to $20 for one gram
$35 to $60 for an eighth
$70 to $120 for a quarter
$320 to $480 for an ounce
About the Writer
For years, New Jersey resident Jon Wiederhorn has been confused about how cannabis could be legal to own and use, but there was nowhere legal to buy it. His coworkers in Toronto -- those privileged elitists -- and friends on the West Coast would laugh at him, as would his buddies in Boston, who also had access to recreational cannabis. Now, Jon no longer feels like a black sheep. Oh, and he may show up a little late to work of 4/21 not 'cause of excessive partying from 4/20, but, well, you read the article. Jersey Pride!