New Jersey’s medical marijuana program has been a major disappointment from a business perspective so far.
Despite having legalized cannabis for medical use back in 2009, just one dispensary has opened its doors since and only 1,200 patients have received MMJ cards because of limited distribution and other large hurdles, making it one of the smallest medical marijuana markets in the nation. Entrepreneurs trying to open additional centers have run into a host of issues that have led to long delays and uncertainty.
To top it all off, the lone dispensary serving patients – Greenleaf Compassion Center – has struggled with higher-than-expected demand and inventory issues, creating a sizable backlog, waiting lists and frustration among patients. The center even had to close its doors for several weeks earlier this summer when its supply dwindled to extremely low levels, essentially bringing distribution to a complete halt.
These issues have put a damper on opportunities not only for dispensaries and growers, but also for ancillary companies catering to these operations (such as those that sell large-scale cultivation equipment) and businesses that provide services and products (such as smoking devices) to patients themselves.
Finally, however, there are some promising signs that the industry will grow in the coming months, creating at least a few additional business opportunities and eventually boosting annual cannabis sales by millions of dollars.
In the past two months, the state health department has issued two additional dispensary permits. Compassionate Care Foundation Inc. received approval in early June to begin growing medical cannabis and eventually open in its dispensary in Egg Harbor Township, which it hopes to do next month.
And this week, Compassionate Care Centers of America Foundation won state approval as well. It plans to start growing immediately and begin serving patients from its dispensary in the town of Woodbridge in November.
By the end of the year, the state should have at least three nonprofit dispensaries up and running, which will likely help boost patient totals – and therefore the market – as well. Three more dispensaries are allowed under the state’s law, and they could potentially open next year.
Given New Jersey’s strict requirements and limitations on medical marijuana operations and its very limited list of qualifying conditions, the state will not become a large MMJ market for the foreseeable future. But the fact that the program is finally advancing gives hope that the state will live up to its full MMJ business potential.