New Jersey marijuana regulators approved rules for “public cannabis consumption areas” on Friday, bringing the state one step closer to providing the social use option to adults and patients.
Adult-use cannabis shops opened in April, but advocates have emphasized the need to implement regulations that give people additional spaces for where they can lawfully consume.
On Friday, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) moved closer to achieving that goal by approving requirements for the consumption sites and fees for businesses that operate them.
“Equitable access to cannabis means everyone who wishes to consume has some place they can do that—legally, safely, and responsibly,” CRC Chair Dianna Houenou said in a press release. “When regulated properly, cannabis consumption areas can strengthen the industry, while giving people more choices on where they consume.”
Food items could not be sold on-site under the draft rules, though people would be able to bring their own food or have it delivered. Alcohol and tobacco could not be sold or consumed at the cannabis consumption sites.
The proposed application fee and microbusiness and standard license fees for the facilities would be $1,000. They could operate indoors or outdoors, but the latter would need to be enclosed.
“I’m very excited that we’re pushing this forward because it is a safe space for consumers and patients,” one commissioner said ahead of the vote to approve the draft rules. “It’s definitely another stride for the commission, so I’m really excited that we were able to put this together on a timely manner.”
Before the rules are finalized, they will be posted in the New Jersey Register, after which point they will be subject to a 60-day public comment period.
CRC further approved 113 conditional cannabis licenses, eight annual licenses and six conversations from conditional to annual at their meeting on Friday.
The public consumption development in New Jersey comes just days after Nevada regulators announced the winners of the state’s first cannabis lounge licensees.
In 2019, Alaska became the first state to enact regulations that provide for the on-site use option at dispensaries.
Colorado followed suit with legislation approved that legalized cannabis “tasting rooms” and “marijuana hospitality establishments” where adults could freely use cannabis.
Social consumption sites are also provided for in New York’s recently enacted marijuana legalization law, though it’s not clear how long after the first retailers open that such activity will be authorized.
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In New Jersey, the governor also recently said 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.
In October, the New Jersey Assembly separately approved a bill that would allow licensed marijuana businesses to deduct certain expenses on their state tax returns, a partial remedy as the industry continues to be blocked from making federal deductions under Internal Revenue Service (IRS) code known as 280E.
While the adult-use market is still developing, it’s already proven profitable, with the state reporting about $80 million in marijuana sales in the first ten weeks after retailers opened shop in April.
A bill filed by Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D) over the summer 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.
Photo courtesy of Martin Alonso.