New Jersey’s projected $2 billion recreational marijuana market kicks off

New Jersey’s projected $2 billion recreational marijuana market launched Thursday to long lines, free food and party music as the state got a jump on rival New York.

Customers started lining up before dawn at Green Thumb Industries’ Rise dispensary in Paterson, according to The New York Times.

That location is less than a 40-minute drive from Manhattan in New York City.

State regulators earlier approved seven existing medical cannabis operators to begin recreational marijuana sales. All seven are multistate operators.

The seven operate a total of only 13 retail stores statewide, raising questions about whether they will be able to meet adult-use demand while being required to adequately serve the state’s 120,000 registered MMJ patients.

Jeff Brown, executive director of the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission, said consumers should initially expect long lines.

State officials didn’t allow the industry to launch on 4/20, the unofficial marijuana holiday, because that would have caused “unmanageable logistical challenges,” a Cannabis Regulatory Commission spokeswoman told the Times.

Rival New York isn’t expected to launch its multibillion-dollar recreational marijuana market until late this year or early 2023.

But even in New Jersey, it will take months before new businesses, such as minority entrepreneurs, join the industry.

In addition to Illinois-based Green Thumb, other operators that won approval to begin adult-use sales included:

  • Acreage Holdings, based in New York.
  • Ascend Wellness, headquartered in New York.
  • Columbia Care, based in New York. Columbia Care is in the process of being acquired by Illinois-based Cresco Labs.
  • Curaleaf Holdings, headquartered in Massachusetts.
  • TerrAscend, with offices in Toronto and New York.
  • Verano Holdings, based in Illinois.

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New Jersey voters approved adult-use marijuana in November 2020.

The 2022 MJBizFactbook projects that New Jersey recreational marijuana sales will rise from $625 million-$775 million in 2022 to $2 billion-$2.4 billion in 2026.