In New Jersey, the process of legalizing marijuana businesses has not been as smooth as expected. Despite the approval of a new cannabis grow site, 24 other licenses continue to wait in a limbo that is already becoming desperate for investors.
Although the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission met on Tuesday evening to approve the transfer of an existing medical marijuana license, a marijuana grow site and a system to help it process applications for new cannabis businesses, it did not announce the recipients of some two dozen businesses.
The commission unveiled its initial rules to guide the legal weed industry last month. This left the stage set to begin sales to those over 21 years of age, which, according to the law, must begin within six months of the commission’s approval of the regulation, as reported by nj.com.
However, the commission did not consider the 2019 request for applications to operate new medical cannabis businesses. Some 150 entities saw a review of applications paused in late 2019 due to a lawsuit. But a court ruled earlier this year that the commission could resume its evaluation and award those 24 licenses.
So far, the commission has not issued any of the new licenses. Jeff Brown, the commission’s executive director, has said licenses will come soon, but regulators have not given a date by when they will announce the new licenses.
“It is not lost on us that everyone is eager to get to that moving forward, as are we,” Dianna Houenou, the commission’s chair, said during the meeting. She said the commission was working quickly to score them, but emphasized the need to “double” and “triple” check each.
According to Travis Ally, an applicant from that licensing round it is absurd that the commission consider expanding cultivation for existing medical marijuana companies while so many are awaiting those licenses. “It’s borderline absurd at this point,” he said.
Edmund DeVeaux, president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, also objected the wait. He said it would harm small and minority-owned cannabis businesses that have poured money into the application process without seeing any returns.
“They are waiting for much anticipated inclusion in the industry that had shut them out for so long and now may see a delay in that process, which is exactly what we did not want to happen. They cannot afford to keep waiting and neither can the state,” he said in a statement.
DeVeauX claimed that while there were some valid reasons in the past to justify delays in the legalization of cannabis businesses, under present conditions they are completely unjustified. “This delay was highly inconvenient but understandable before. Now, it is totally unacceptable and the state needs to take action immediately.”
The commission did not say when it would begin to accept licenses for applications, but the cannabis legalization law says it must open a process within 30 days of adopting its initial rules and regulations. That deadline comes this Saturday, September. 18.
Despite the opposition, the commission did approve a second marijuana cultivation site in Lafayette for Harmony Foundation of New Jersey, which currently grows and dispenses medical cannabis in Secaucus.