The Garden State’s cannabis marketplace is finally on the verge of coming into full bloom. While New Jersey has been perpetually on the verge of something big in cannabis over the last several years, where is New Jersey now and where is it going? With a medical marketplace poised to eclipse over 100,000 patients in the coming months, and the voters of New Jersey on the precipice of passing adult-use cannabis by referendum on November 3, 2020, the sky is the limit.
By way of brief background, New Jersey’s original medical marijuana law, the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (“CUMMA”) was signed into law on January 18, 2010, on Governor Jon Corzine’s final day in office. Despite this, the program lingered over the following eight (8) years, hampered by limiting qualifying conditions, a limited number of alternative treatment centers (“ATCs”), limited products, and a lack of political will. Ultimately, by the time Governor Phil Murphy took office in January of 2018, the program only had approximately 15,000 patients enrolled with only five (5) operational ATCs.
However, having campaigned on the promise of an expanded medical marijuana marketplace, as well as adult-use cannabis, Governor Murphy quickly set about to expedite what the prior eight (8) years had delayed. On January 23, 2020, Governor Murphy issued Executive Order 6, which directed the New Jersey Department of Health (the “DOH”) to “undertake a review of all aspects of New Jersey’s medical marijuana program, with a focus on ways to expand access to marijuana for medical purposes.” This process worked hand in hand with legislative efforts to pass legislation codifying an expanded medical marketplace, which ultimately took the form of the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act (the “Jake Honig Law”), which was signed into law on July 2, 2019. As a result of these efforts, New Jersey’s medical marijuana marketplace has expanded from five (5) ATCs in January of 2018 to twelve (12) facilities today (with another twenty-four (24) licenses currently in the pipeline), and more than 90,000 total enrolled patients.
Moreover, and after several stalled legislative efforts at achieving an adult use cannabis marketplace via legislation, the voters of New Jersey will cast their votes via referendum to achieve an adult-use cannabis marketplace via constitutional amendment on November 3, 2020. Similarly, it is important to remember that these two marketplaces, the medical and adult-use marketplaces, will continue to exist in tandem. For instance, in the DOH’s most recent biennial report assessing current market demand, capacity, and need for growth, the DOH found that the State needed
approximately one medical marijuana dispensary for every 2,000 patients, meaning, there is a substantial gap between where the market exists today (12 ATCs) as compared to where the DOH has publicly stated it needs to be (45 ATCs). And again, patient enrollment only continues to increase month over month given the broader qualifying conditions codified under the Jake Honig Law.
In short, while the New Jersey cannabis marketplace has already grown by leaps and bounds over the last two (2) years, the time for explosive growth is only just beginning.