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New Jersey Regulators Release New Rules For Marijuana On-Site Consumption Areas, Open Public Comment Period



New Jersey marijuana regulators have filed proposed rules to allow for cannabis consumption areas where adults 21 and older could use marijuana on-site.

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJ-CRC) says it “expects the new cannabis consumption area rules to have a beneficial social impact by advancing social equity, while allowing persons 21 years of age and older another venue to safely enjoy the personal use of cannabis.”

If implemented following a 60-day public comment period that runs through March 18, individual municipalities would be authorized to adopt ordinances allowing consumption areas, which would need to be attached to licensed retailers.

Businesses couldn’t sell food or drinks at the facilities, but people would be allowed to bring their own food or order delivery. Medical cannabis patients could bring marijuana products purchased from different dispensaries.

The consumption areas could be either indoors or outdoors. Licensing fees for microbusiness retailers wanting to add consumption areas will be $1,000, and for standard retailers they will be $5,000. They would need to be reapproved annually.

NJ-CRC first voted to approved the proposed regulations last month, and now they have been unveiled for public comment.

“The Commission expects the rules to advance social equity by promoting opportunities in New Jersey’s cannabis industry for persons from statutorily designated target communities,” NJ-CRC said. Equity businesses “will be among the first in line to receive cannabis retailer licenses in the State and can subsequently apply for a cannabis consumption area endorsement.”

“The Commission additionally anticipates the rules to have a positive social impact by further promoting general public safety. The rules ensure that access to all cannabis consumption areas is restricted to adults at least 21 years of age. Additionally, the rules require that when a patient or consumer leaves a cannabis consumption area, any remaining unconsumed cannabis must be resealed with an exit package before it is carried out. Otherwise, any unconsumed cannabis is required to be destroyed.”

NJ-CRC also said that it expects the addition of cannabis consumption areas will have a positive economic benefit for the state by generating more tax revenue from marijuana sales and annual fees. However, it said that businesses would likely incur costs to get the establishments operational.

The reform would “likely lead to the creation of jobs, as cannabis retailers who apply for an endorsement would most likely require additional staff to appropriately ensure consumer safety,” it said.

The public comment period is open until March 18 for people to weigh in on the proposed rules.

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During his State of the State address earlier this month, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) touted the state’s growing marijuana industry, emphasizing work that’s being done to ensure that the market is equitable and right the wrongs of the drug war.

Regulators in the state have also been receiving public input on the most effective ways to use cannabis tax revenue to invest in social equity. However, New Jersey has faced criticism from some advocates who feel the state has put too much focus on supporting large corporate interests, which currently dominate the market.

For example, activists have questioned certain market-forward policies such as the ongoing ban on home cultivation for adult consumers.

Murphy said in November that the state should “revisit” its current criminalization of homegrown marijuana for personal use—but he thinks that conversation should happen at a later point after the commercial market has matured.

The debate over equity versus industry came to the fore on Twitter this month after regulators in New Jersey and New York briefly sparred over which state has taken the better approach to rolling out their recreational industries.

Meanwhile, New Jersey adult-use marijuana sales exceeded $100 million for the first time in the third quarter of the 2022 fiscal year, with combined medical and recreational cannabis purchases totaling $177,710,764, the state reported last month.

Separately, a bill filed by Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D) last year would also authorize the governor to enter into agreements for interstate marijuana commerce with other states that have legalized cannabis. However, the agreements could only be forged if federal law changes, or if the Justice Department issues guidance permitting such activity.

The Senate president separately filed legislation to legalize psilocybin in New Jersey, and it includes provisions that would allow people to cultivate the psychedelic at home.

In the region, New York’s first recreational cannabis store opened late last month. Connecticut’s adult-use market launched this month. And Rhode Island’s first recreational cannabis sales started at the beginning of December.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based managing editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.


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