Recreational marijuana has been legal since the law’s passing in the November 2020 election, but adult-use sales have just begun. Thirteen dispensaries opened their doors to recreational users for the first time on April 21st. The dispensaries that are now open from adult-use sales are all ones that used to sell exclusively medical cannabis. Some of those businesses are small, local ventures; others, like Curaleaf, have dispensaries across more than 20 states.  Some dispensaries had lines wrapped around the building on opening day. People camped outside RISE cannabis dispensary in Paterson Thursday morning to be ready for sales at 6:00 a.m. sharp. By the time the business opened its doors, there were already 40 people in line.  Other marijuana businesses, like Ascend Wellness, were careful not to cause traffic or be a nuisance, allowing people to show up to purchase weed by appointment only. That dispensary’s location in Rochelle Park took between 1,500 and 2,000 appointments on opening day alone; it has the capacity for 2,500 a day. 

The Rise Dispensary in Paterson New Jersey Source: @RISEPatersonNJ
Marijuana businesses are having to be careful with their supply to ensure that medical patients’ access to their prescriptions isn’t interrupted. TerrAscend did that by only offering a fairly narrow menu to its recreational customers until they can get a better handle on things. “New Jersey’s adult-use recreational cannabis market will stand as a model for the entire nation in ensuring racial, social, and economic equity and justice,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy tweeted Thursday.  Some dispensaries have already been leaning into that social justice message as well. The CEO Of Roll Up Life hosted a help program called the Community Expungement Series at the East Orange Public Library to help people go through the process of removing convictions and charges from their criminal records for things that are no longer considered crimes. Two other dispensaries, the Apothecarium and Green Thumb, both signed on to sponsor legal aid for people who’ve been struggling with their cases.  In New Jersey, 362,000 low-level marijuana and hashish cases were automatically expunged, but that didn’t cover every charge. Since statistics show Black people in New Jersey were 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than White People, and are incarcerated at a rate 12 times higher than White people in New Jersey, that means it’s largely Black people who would benefit from those programs.  The revenues from recreational marijuana sales are expected to generate about $19 million in the first year, though that’s expected to climb drastically. Recreational weed has a 6.625% sales tax, and municipalities can choose to add another tax of up to 2%. 70% of the profits from the state tax go to areas disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy speaking at an event Source: Wikicommons
Governor Murphy took a tour of Zen Leaf in Elizabeth, New Jersey.  “It’s an impressive shop,” he said of Zen Leaf in a video tweeted out on opening day. “This is an incredibly important day for New Jersey. It took us a long time to get here, but we’re here. And I got here because of social justice and the need to undo the damage from the overwhelming War on Drugs and all the lives that were ruined as a result of that. This is one step. It’s not the final step – but it’s one huge step in the right direction.” Under New Jersey’s recreational marijuana law, you can legally purchase up to one ounce of marijuana, 5 ounces of cannabis concentrate, or 1,000 milligrams of certain edibles at a time. Although those are the purchase amounts per dispensary, each person can possess up to six ounces at a time without getting in trouble. Edibles have to be clearly labeled and can only be things like gummies; perishable fresh-made items like cookies and brownies aren’t yet permitted.  The only place you’re allowed to consume cannabis is at home, with the permission of the property owner – landlords can still keep tenants from using marijuana on their property.  New Jersey is one of two states with legal recreational marijuana that don’t allow people to have their own cannabis plants at home; it’s the only state that doesn’t allow that for medical marijuana patients. Getting caught with even one plant can land you five years in prison and a $25,000 fine.   
Cannabis leaf on red traffic light Source: Shutterstock
New Jersey’s laws allow people to share marijuana and gift it to friends, but you can’t sell it without a license. Some people have been getting around that with a “grey market” loophole – selling “cookies” that come with a “free gift” of marijuana.  That “grey market” may continue to thrive for some time. Even though recreational marijuana is now legal to use in New Jersey, nearly two out of three municipalities decided not to allow dispensaries in their area. That access issue could lead more people to go with a semi-shady delivery service, rather than traveling hours away to get somewhere in the state with a legal dispensary.   New Jersey was the first state in its area to legalize recreational marijuana. New York was close behind and should have adult-use cannabis for sale by the end of the year. Pennsylvania has medical cannabis but not recreational, and Delaware’s recent push for recreational weed failed.   There are the dispensaries currently open for recreational marijuana sales in New Jersey: 

  • The Apothecarium, Maplewood
    • 1865 Springfield Ave, Maplewood, NJ 07040
  • The Apothecarium, Phillipsburg
    • 55 S Main St, Phillipsburg, NJ 08865
  • Ascend, Rochelle Park
    • 174 NJ-17 N, Rochelle Park, NJ 07662
  • The Botanist by CCF, Egg Harbor Township (Acreage Holdings)
    • 100 Century Dr, Egg Harbor Township, NJ 08234
  • The Botanist, Williamstown
    • 2090 N Black Horse Pike, Williamstown, NJ 08094
  • The Cannabist, Deptford
    • 1692 Clements Bridge Rd, Deptford, NJ 08096
  • The Cannabist, Vineland 
    • 1062 N Delsea Dr, Vineland, NJ 08360
  • Curaleaf, Bellmawr
    • 640 Creek Rd, Bellmawr, NJ 08031
  • Curaleaf, Edgewater Park
    • 640 Creek Rd, Bellmawr, NJ 08031
  • RISE Dispensaries, Paterson 
    • 196 3rd Ave, Paterson, NJ 07514
  • RISE Dispensaries, Bloomfield
    • 26-48 Bloomfield Ave, Bloomfield, NJ 07003
  • Zen Leaf, Elizabeth
    • 117 Spring St, Elizabeth, NJ 07201
  • Zen Leaf, Lawrence 
    • 3256 Brunswick Pike, Lawrence Township, NJ 08648