Some two-thirds of cities and towns in New Jersey have elected not to permit licensed marijuana retailers, even though more than two-thirds of the Garden State’s voters cast ballots to legalize cannabis.
Localities had until last Saturday to decide whether to allow retail operations or to bar them. Those municipalities that have chosen to opt-out are free to reverse their position at any time.
The initial citywide moratoriums apply to the licensing of brick-and-mortar retailers. New regulations just issued by the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission forbid localities from imposing bans on marijuana delivery services.
“These moratoriums only serve to protect and prolong the illicit cannabis marketplace,” said NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “Time and time again, we have seen that consumers prefer to obtain cannabis products from safe, licensed, above-ground retailers. But, absent access to such facilities, the illicit market will continue to fill this void.”
More than two-thirds of New Jersey voters cast ballots to amend the state constitution to legalize marijuana, but that is not final step toward the state legalizing the drug for recreational purposes.
In the 2020 election, New Jersey voters overwhelmingly voted to legalize cannabis, but instead of doing what the people wanted, Governor Phil Murphy signed a law making it a first-degree crime – punishable by up to to 20 years in prison – having more than 25 pounds of marijuana or 50 marijuana plants or 5 pounds of hashish.
Under the language changed in the New Jersey State Constitution, legal marijuana can only be realized with regulations put forth by the Cannabis Regulatory Commission and, in turn, the Legislature.
Lisa McCormick, New Jersey’s progressive Democratic leader, says Murphy betrayed voters who cast ballots to legalize cannabis when he signed a law making possession of large quantities of marijuana a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
“Despite a mandate from their constituents, the majority of whom overwhelmingly voted in November to legalize adult-use marijuana sales in New Jersey, many local officials remain hesitant of the notion of licensing these operations in their communities,” said Armentano. “The irony is that marijuana sales are already taking place in these communities right now. But rather than taking place in licensed, regulated establishments, they are occurring on street-corners without any oversight and without any monies generated from these sales filtered back into the community.”
Studies have repeatedly refuted the claims that retail marijuana establishments are linked with either elevated crime rates or increases in youth marijuana use or access.
Some analyses have concluded that retailers are associated with a rise in home values and in other positive economic indicators.
Regulations place no statewide cap on the number of licensed retailers that will be permitted in New Jersey. Existing medical cannabis businesses are eligible to apply for approval to sell to the adult market.
Retail sales are anticipated to begin within six months.