The day after 420 was opening day for New Jersey’s recreational sales, and by all accounts it was a big day. At the dozen retail dispensaries statewide that opened their doors to adult customers, crowds topped more than 12,000 eager buyers — far exceeding state government expectations. Total opening day sales totaled nearly $1.9 million dollars.
New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission had approved seven companies — Acreage, Ascend, Columbia Care, Curaleaf, GTI, TerrAscend and Verano — to expand their dispensary operations from medical sales to adult-use sales. So far, it’s been long lines, steady business and no reports of supply problems nor major incidents.
Governor Phil Murphy has long been a proponent of legal cannabis, and told the press “I got behind this for social justice reasons. The war on drugs had a huge deleterious impact on communities of color, yet another chapter in our country’s history.” He was not willing to publicly state whether or not he would be one of the first week buyers, although he was quoted as saying “If we were legalizing scotch, I’d show up with a shopping cart.”
Next door, New York has already passed legalization and is trying to begin adult recreational sales by year-end. But right now, it’s unclear whether or not New Yorkers will be crossing the Hudson in droves. To begin with, New Jersey has no dispensaries right across the border, such as in Jersey City, that are easily reachable by public transit. And because New York has yet to codify state sales policies, a legal loophole called “gifting” is being exploited all over the state. This grey-market practice has unlicensed sellers provide a “gift” of cannabis with the purchase of some other low-value item, such as selling a bumper sticker for $50 with a “free” bag of cannabis as a thank-you. So long as the “gifted” amount is 3 ounces or less, there is no interest among local prosecutors to take action: some have deemed it as legal for now.
What’s more, New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin just issued a ruling to law enforcement agencies that police officers are free to purchase and consume cannabis. While some critics are concerned this may lead to officers being high on the job, the ruling reinforces the wording of the previously-passed New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance and Marketplace Modernization Act. Agencies may not take any adverse actions against officers who use cannabis off-duty, which puts cannabis in the same class as off-duty alcohol use. Of course, Platkin’s ruling does remind law enforcement that there should be zero tolerance for cannabis use on the job.