New Jersey gears up for launch of $1 billion recreational cannabis market, implementation law signed

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Following years of unsuccessful attempts to introduce cannabis reform in New Jersey, Gov. Philip D. Murphy has catapulted the state to the “green zone”.

How? On Monday, February 22, Murphy signed three bills into law that legalize and regulate the use of adult-use cannabis.

Based on the governor’s decision, New Jersey has gone down in history as the most densely populated state in the Northeast to completely legalize the green plant. An additional 14 U.S. states have legalized cannabis for people aged 21 and above.

Despite the fact that New Jersey’s recreational cannabis market is on-track to launch in the near future, consumers will be forced to wait until licenses are dished out to dispensary owners. Furthermore, the regulatory framework must be established before an adult-use sector can thrive.  

“Our current [cannabis] prohibition laws have failed every test of social justice,” Mr. Murphy said in a statement on Monday. “Maintaining a status quo that allows tens of thousands, disproportionately people of color, to be arrested in New Jersey each year for low-level drug offenses is unjust and indefensible.”

What will New Jersey’s recreational cannabis bills do?

During the November election, voters in the Garden State vigorously approved a measure that led to the development of a constitutional amendment for recreational cannabis legalization. Amid the rise of an adult-use sector, New Jersey’s existing 13 medical cannabis dispensaries have had trouble dealing with an influx of demand.

Let’s take a look at what New Jersey’s recreational cannabis bills will do:

  • Establish a regulated cameras industry that serves applicable customers across “The Garden State”;
  • Decriminalize cannabis possession to the amount of six ounces;
  • Expunge low-level cannabis arrests from the criminal records of up to a quarter of a million state residents;
  • Prevent police from carrying out searches based solely on the suspected scent of cannabis;
  • Make it mandatory for police officers to activate body-fitted cameras prior to investigating suspected cannabis offenders;
  • Prohibit police officers from informing a minor’s parents if he or she has committed a cannabis violation;
  • Train police officers to destroy cannabis consumption records within two years of a minor being caught in the act;
  • Downgrade alcohol possession penalties and make them equivalent to that of possessing a cannabis joint.

New Jersey’s recreational cannabis market could attract $126 million in annual revenue 

Mr. Murphy has advocated for full cannabis legalization in New Jersey since as far back in 2016, at which point he was busy campaigning to become State Governor. Despite ongoing efforts to welcome an adult-use sector, lawmakers failed to provide adequate support. Fortunately, the landscape of legal weed is transforming into something quite appealing.

Doing a recent news conference that was broadcast on Facebook, Governor Murphy expressed that “the carefully regulated cannabis market” will ensure “an economic boon for our state.” He makes a good point, with analysts predicting that annual revenue could easily top $126 million once New Jersey’s recreational cannabis market is fully operational.

According to industry experts, New Jersey’s recreational cannabis market could yield as much as $2 billion within the next 5 years. Harvesting such a colossal amount of money would be a serious merit for the local economy, which has struggled amid coronavirus-related business closures and disruptions. 

“It was a long and winding road, and took so many years,” said cosponsor of the bills, State Sen. Nick Scutari (D., Linden). “But for the citizens of New Jersey, it was worth it.”