April 21, 2022, marked the launch of an entirely new industry in New Jersey—the first day that personal adult-use cannabis was sold to the state’s first customers. Those ages 21 and older can now legally purchase up to an ounce of cannabis per sale. In a news announcement, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (“CRC”) reported “cannabis, and cannabis products were sold to 12,438 recreational cannabis customers for a total gross sale of nearly $1.9 million.” The sales took place at 12 locations of the seven participating medical cannabis dispensaries in New Jersey, which have been in operation since 2012, pursuant to the Jake Honig Law, and had previously only sold medicinal cannabis to patients who held medicinal cannabis cards through the NJ Medicinal Cannabis Program.
This historic day came 17 months after state voters approved a referendum in November 2020 approving personal adult-use cannabis. The State Legislature subsequently passed the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (the “Act”) which legalized the personal adult-use market in February 2021. Since the Act was passed, the CRC has worked diligently and cautiously to create and implement industry regulations for business entrepreneurs to be able to operate cannabis businesses in New Jersey. The CRC has simultaneously created processes for customers, aged 21 and older, to purchase and obtain personal adult-use cannabis. In order to ensure the appropriate transition into a personal adult-use market, the CRC provided existing medicinal cannabis operators, referred to as Alternative Treatment Centers (“ATC”), the ability to enter the personal adult-use market prior to new business entrepreneurs. This article discusses existing medical cannabis operators in the personal adult-use market, how ATCs were the first to sell recreational cannabis to consumers, and how the CRC is making sure that each ATC takes steps to preserve access and availability to medicinal cannabis patients in the newly expanded market.