The New Jersey Cannabis Control Committee (CRC) met for the first time on Monday, immediately assuming control of the state’s growing medical marijuana program and taking the first steps toward creating a regulated, legal cannabis market.
CRC Chairwoman Dianna Houenou called the meeting to order and provided context for the task at hand. “Standing up an entirely new state agency is no small task. Starting today, the commission’s real work begins to establish and grow a responsible, regulated medical and personal use cannabis industry.”
Chairwoman Houenou outlined three immediate tasks for the newly formed Commission as it relates to the adult use industry; to hire staff and build infrastructure, to write regulations and to permit and license new businesses.
The panel voted to elect commissioner Sam Delgado, who was appointed to the Commission by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, as its vice chair. Delgado, a former Marine and Verizon executive, told the story of his arrest in New York for marijuana possession in 1975 and how his experience allows him to understand the harms of the drug war first-hand.
Commission members said that ensuring that medical marijuana patients have access to medicine is currently a top priority. Currently New Jersey has just 16 operational dispensaries to serve over 106,000 registered medical marijuana patients in the state.
CRC Executive Director Jeff Brown told the commission that patients in the medical market continue to face challenges from high prices, a limited number of dispensaries and lack of access in competitive markets.
“There’s uneven readiness and action in our current cannabis industry. Some of our alternative treatment centers are moving full speed ahead, and others are not. In order to launch a legal market on the backbones of our current industry, we need to see action across the board,” Brown said.
Mr. Brown said that the state won’t issue any permits to grow or dispense cannabis for adult use until the agency hires staff to support its objectives, including entities that will oversee diversity and inclusion initiatives.
The CRC has until August to develop rules and regulations for a new adult use cannabis industry. Within 180 days of finalizing those rules, the agency will then set a date for when legal sales can begin — likely sometime early next year.
The next commission meeting is scheduled for April 22 at 10:30 a.m.