Politician procrastination piques pot profiteers’ impatience

Cannabis businesses are frustrated with the state of New Jersey’s delay in opening the marketplace and the mounting frustration among marijuana industry leaders is creating .

It’s been more than a year since New Jersey voters overwhelmingly approved adult recreational marijuana use, but the state is failing to hold up its end of the deal.

Sales for recreational marijuana were supposed to begin this month, but it’s very likely the state Cannabis Regulatory Commission will once again miss a deadline.

“We have product going bad on our shelves. We have people with not enough work to keep them busy,” said Joe Bayern, CEO of Curaleaf, which operates in 23 states, including facilities in a few South Jersey towns.

“Everyone thinks they have a better mousetrap,” said Patrik Jonsson, northeast regional president for Curaleaf, one of the world’s largest marijuana growers, manufacturers and retailers, including three locations in South Jersey. “No state has perfected this, so thinking you’ll get a perfect 10 on day no. 1 is asinine. All you want is a program that’s 90% there — the medical program with some common sense tweaks.

Bayern said the uncertainty about when sales will begin has him thinking about scaling back the company’s investment in the state, as it has taken a lot of time and money for them to get ready for this deadline.

“It didn’t have to take this long. We could have hired more people and generated more tax revenue for the state,” he said.

The Cannabis Regulatory Commission told KYW Newsradio that nobody was available to answer any questions about the timeline or process. The governor said he’s confident in the work of the commission and believes they are working responsibly.

The governor has previously said that setting up an equitable market focused on social justice takes time, and he’d rather get it done right than done quickly.

Bayern disagrees. “Getting it right and moving quickly don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

“The people have spoken pretty clearly here,” he added, “and I think it’s time for legislators and regulators to recognize that they work on behalf of the people.”

More than a year after marijuana was legalized in New Jersey, officials are still bumbling on details that would allow adults 21 years or older to be able to purchase legal weed — and one key group of stakeholders is losing patience.

New Jersey medical marijuana operators are chomping at the bit for the Cannabis Regulatory Commission to give them the all-clear to “flip the switch” and begin selling products to anyone 21 years or older, rather than only patients with a medical marijuana card.

Over 117,000 patients are registered in the New Jersey medical marijuana program, mostly in Monmouth County, Camden County and Ocean County.

Four alternative treatment centers — the state’s term for a vertically-integrated medical marijuana operation, from seed to sale — have already submitted “conversion” applications to the CRC, the first step toward winning state approval to begin selling marijuana recreationally.

Officials and experts have long said that medical marijuana dispensaries will be able to sell to recreational patients far earlier than any recreational-only dispensary would open in New Jersey.

Under state law, that first day for adult sales at licensed dispensaries is supposed to come next month. The enabling marijuana legalization legislation signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy last year directs the CRC to begin adult use marijuana sales before Feb. 22, with 30-day notice beginning Jan. 23.

But there’s a catch. The CRC is yet to issue any licenses for recreational marijuana sales, so even if sales are approved as of Feb. 22, there won’t be any dispensaries selling it.

At the CRC’s monthly meeting last week, Executive Director Jeff Brown declined to offer an estimate on how long it could take for the commission to review the medical marijuana operators’ applications. And in an interview, he would not estimate when retail sales would begin.

“It’s been a goal of this administration from day number one to get this done, and we want to get sales started and make sure we’re the first in the state to offer recreational sales, and I think we’re going to accomplish that,” CRC Executive Director Jeff Brown said.

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