New Jersey’s initial adult-use marijuana rules give edge to small businesses

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New Jersey regulators took a key step Wednesday toward developing a billion-dollar recreational marijuana market, announcing an initial set of rules that prioritize local and minority entrepreneurs.

That could help satisfy worries, reported, that most of the state’s 12 existing medical marijuana operators are owned by out-of-state interests.

The development of regulations means that the state is now on a 180-day clock to launch adult-use sales, according to, meaning sales would launch by February 2022, if not sooner.

But it’s likely those initial sales will be made by existing MMJ operators.

New Jersey cannabis attorney Rob DiPisa of Cole Schotz gave regulators high marks in their “commitment to the timetable set forth in the legislation,” which called for regulations to be developed by Aug. 21.

Because of that, DiPisa said, “we may see adult-use sales in New Jersey faster than anticipated.”

“However,” he added, “I think we need to keep in mind that the Cannabis Regulatory Commission has made it clear that existing operators will need to show that the state is meeting the needs of existing patients before we can cross the threshold into an adult-use market.”

New Jersey’s progress also might put additional pressure on New York’s incoming governor, Kathy Hochul, to move quickly to develop a recreational marijuana program that already is experiencing lengthy delays.

The first set of recreational cannabis rules in New Jersey, according to, include:

  • Licensing priority to women, minorities, disabled veterans, social equity businesses and those in “impact” zones, or areas disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.
  • A separate encouragement for microbusinesses. Those businesses, defined as 10 or fewer employees, won’t count toward any license caps the commission establishes. The enterprises must be totally New Jersey-owned, however.
  • A limit of 37 growers to be licensed before February 2023. The commission didn’t set limits on other types of licenses.

The next big date for adult use in New Jersey is Aug. 21, the deadline for municipality opt-outs. Recently, it came to light that roughly half could ban adult-use marijuana businesses.