Along with this month’s legislative action in Congress, there have been notable events in three of the four “New” states (we’re looking at you, New Hampshire, because you’re surrounded by states where possession is legal for adults and your reticence hardly jives with your “Live Free Or Die” motto.)
We’ll start with New Jersey, where license applications for retail cannabis dispensaries are now moving forward. This puts the state ahead of neighbors New York and Connecticut, both of whom are yet to start accepting applications while they continue to develop rules. Priority is being given to applicants who are either considered social equity businesses, diversely-owned businesses, or impact-zone businesses, and the state’s goal is to approve conditional licenses within 90 days of application. Sales are projected to exceed $2 billion within four years, which will make New Jersey one of the largest cannabis marketplaces on the East Coast.
In New Mexico, adult retail sales have just begun as of April 1st, with a flood of brand-new dispensaries opening their doors. The state-approved more than 225 retail licenses, some of which cover more than one site. These are all new facilities in addition to existing medical cannabis dispensaries that already served more than 130,000 New Mexicans. The Governor’s office has projected this will generate 11,000 new jobs statewide, and $50 million in new tax revenue each year.
And in New York, while state regulators continues to slow-walk the licensing requirements of its Marijuana Regulation And Taxation Act, tribal governments have no such impediment. As a result, recreational cannabis sales are booming on reservation lands — in stores, at gas stations, even at roadside stands. No state approval is necessary, as Native American have tribal sovereignty and do not have to wind their efforts into the state program (although they are free to do so.) One big advantage the tribes have is that cannabis sales on their lands are not subject to state sales taxes. So the expectation is that many cannabis users will drive out of their way onto tribal territory to save money on their purchases (avoiding a 13% tax), just as people already do for gasoline. Most tribes are establishing their own cannabis regulations and issuing tribal licenses to ensure that sales are made in accordance with tribal council policy and following health and safety best practices. Tribes are not allowed to import cannabis from outside their territories, so currently the only legal products they can sell are those they produce on their own reservations; this can change in the future as the state begins its own legal sales.