NJ Legalized Marijuana. So Now what?


NJ joined Montana, Arizona, and South Dakota legalizing recreational cannabis on Election Day  So now what?

CHERRY HILL — New Jersey voters have overwhelmingly chosen to amended the state’s constitution to permit adult-use cannabis. On a night when many state- and national races remain undecided, the tally to legalize cannabis in NJ was thoroughly decisive: 67%-33%.

The 34% margin of victory is a blistering denunciation of cannabis prohibition and another death blow to America’s punitive approach to cannabis.

So what’s next? What do these results mean for folks looking to break into the industry? What about expungement of low-level pot crimes? And most importantly, when can I get some legal weed in NJ?

1) Let’s start there: when will legal sales begin?

Here’s the tea: no one out there has anything better than an educated guess on this one. Here’s my hypothesis: it’s gonna be at least a year from now before recreational cannabis sales occur in NJ.

Predictions of a speedier timetable should be met with skepticism. The suggestion by NJ Senator Nick Scutari that NJ’s medical dispensaries could take on recreational sales was laughable to anyone familiar with NJ’s overburdened program. There are currently only 12 dispensaries serving NJ’s nearly 95,o00 patients, a staggering ratio where demand regularly outstrips supply.

NJ’s pot dispensaries already can’t meet demand for medical use. It’s a fantasy to assume they could meet recreational consumer demand at any time in the foreseeable future.

NJ Deputy Health Commissioner Jeff Brown inherited a crappy program and has diligently worked to make it better. He was quick to pop Senator Scutari’s ballon.

“If we (told NJ’s medical marijuana dispensaries) tomorrow you could sell personal use cannabis but you have to serve patients first, they would have a line of personal-use cannabis customers who would never be able to get in the store because they are so busy serving patients,” Mr Brown told NJ Cannabis Insider.

Amanda Hoffman is among NJ’s most seasoned cannabis activists.

“NJ still does not have adequate safe, affordable, and accessible cannabis for patients,” Ms Hoffman told InsiderNJ citing home grow as an alternative. “Dispensaries can’t keep reliable stock levels, have limited hours, often discontinue effective strains with no substitute, can barely manage the crowds they have now.”

2) How do I break into NJ’s burgeoning, lucrative cannabis industry? Unless you’re rich and/or politically connected, there’s probably not room for you at the table. Experience in other states won’t get you far in NJ where patronage will favor expertise to the detriment of the ultimate result. Which is why when recreational cannabis finally arrives in NJ, it’ll make a small cadre of politically connected fabulously wealthy with the rest of us paying $500/ounce for mediocre weed.

And so in all likelihood, for most of us, the only role to play in NJ’s cannabis industry is as a consumer.

3) What about expungements of low-level pot crimes? Sorry to say, but it’s gonna take a while, probably a year or so, just to clear the first hurdles on this one.

With recreational cannabis now overwhelmingly approved by voters, NJ lawmakers  must enact legislation to carry out the will of their people. And because things like expungement require legislative intervention, movement to expunge could happen quickly. But we’ve chronicled the difficulty advancing expungement legislation for years.

“We should have automatic expungement and immediately stop arresting people over marijuana,” Ms Hoffman, added. “Stop wasting law enforcement resources and our tax dollars on ruining people’s lives.”

If you’ve ever used the NJCOURTS.gov to pay a traffic ticket, you can imagine how easy the expungement process should be: log on, type in your information, and follow the steps to expunge any low-level, non-violent cannabis convictions. And unlike traffic court, NO fees for cannabis expungements because creating more barriers undermines the purpose.

Free and easy. That’s how it should be.

There’s unprecedented pressure on Trenton right now to solve the expungement dilemma and to restore liberty to those who’ve been harmed by the War of Drugs.

Hiring a boatload of judges to better manage NJ’s expungement backlog is a very good start.

Jay Lassiter is the court jester of NJ politics. 






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