How To Open A Dispensary In New Jersey

How To Open A Dispensary In New Jersey


Are you wondering how to open a cannabis dispensary in New Jersey? This page is dedicated to keeping you up to date on the latest news and information relevant to opening a cannabis business in New Jersey. This includes helpful insights on what is to come next for the state. 

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission is set to release its rules and regulations for the recreational adult-use industry by Aug 21, 2021. We anticipate this announcement will likely be on August 19th, 2021. This serves as an initial step before the acceptance of license proposals.

On the same day, towns in New Jersey have to decide whether they will allow or ban recreational cannabis sales and businesses. Each county has a 30-day window to hold information sessions. Application will be available on September 20 and should be turned in before October 20.

On Monday February 22nd, 2021, the state legislature and later Governor Phil Murphy approved a series of bills that regulate the sale of recreational cannabis to anyone over the age of 21. This was preceded by the passing of a constitutional amendment on November 3rd, 2020 in which New Jersey voters voted overwhelmingly in favor of legalization. Here’s why:

  • In a most recent survey, 61% of New Jersey residents were in favor of legalization.
  • Governor Phil Murphy is very pro-legalization, calling it an “incredibly smart thing to do” and a “no-brainer” earlier this year.
  • New Jersey has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19 plummeting tax revenue and increasing costs associated at the same time. Even before COVID-19, there were state tax revenue issues. These challenges will put even more pressure on the state to find ways to gain more tax revenue. NJ Marijuana legalization could provide hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue.  
  • Criminal justice reform has never been more popular. This puts even more pressure on the state to legalize than ever before. 

The first recent effort toward marijuana legalization was the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act which New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law in July of 2019. The bill intended to create affordable and accessible cannabis medical treatment for those that need it most. This includes:

  • Allowing physician’s assistants and advanced practicing nurses to prescribe patients marijuana
  • Authorize patients to be treated for up to 1 year
  • Employer protections

And as it pertains to New Jersey Dispensaries:

  • Home Delivery – Approves adoption of regulations to allow dispensaries to deliver to patients
  • Price Lists – Requires dispensaries to have a price list of all their medical marijuana products listed on their website. They will not be able to deviate from that pricing listed and are not allowed to change pricing more than once per month.
  • Cannabis Regulatory Commission – This establishes a regulatory commission in but not of the New Jersey Department of Treasury responsible for the medical marijuana program. 

The Opportunity Size

Marijuana Business Daily projects the recreational market in New Jersey to be at 1.2-1.5 billion by 2023. This would make New Jersey one of the largest cannabis markets in the country. With 9 million residents, millions of visitors, higher income, it’s evident this will be a hot market to start a cannabis business. 

The impact on the actual state for recreational would be huge and is predicted to bring in an estimated $300 million in tax revenue annually. To give some perspective, this would be more than double what the state of Colorado gets in tax revenue for its state. 

Local Cannabis Restrictions & Laws

When you are looking to open a cannabis business in New Jersey, one of the most important considerations is location. There are particular local municipalities where they have determined to outright ban or restrict marijuana. This means you might find it a challenge to set up recreational or medical cannabis businesses here.

More than 70 towns have banned recreational marijuana sales in the past years. You can see a list of these towns here. However, any ordinance enacted by a municipality prior to the effective date of the new legalization law is null and void.

Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana has come a long way in New Jersey. In 2010 Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act which allowed medical cannabis use for individuals with particular conditions including cancer, glaucoma, MS, HIV/AIDS, seizure disorder, Lou Gehrig’s disease, severe muscle spasms, muscular dystrophy, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s, and any terminal illness where the patient has a year or less. Eventually, in 2016 through 2017, post-traumatic disorder, migraines, Tourette’s, autism-related anxiety, Alzheimer’s related anxiety, and chronic pain in particular circumstances were added to the list for use. 

Since its inception, the program has grown rapidly to 77,000 patients in New Jersey. As of August 27th 2019, No new license applications for medicinal marijuana are being accepted at this time. Attention appears to be shifting in New Jersey to full legalization.

However, here’s the current information on the requirements to start a Medicinal Marijuana Business in New Jersey.

In NJ, licenses are granted to what are called “Alternative Treatment Centers” which are defined as businesses that:

  • Cultivate
  • Manufacture
  • And/or dispense medicinal marijuana and related paraphernalia to qualifying patients in according with the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act

Application Fee

The applicant of the Alternative Treatment Center (or “ATC” for short) is required to make two payments with the application. One $2,000 and another $18,000. The $18,000 payment can be canceled upon denial of license. 

Recreational Use Legalization

As stated above, New Jersey’s referendum on the ballot for November 2020 passed overwhelmingly on recreational marijuana legalization and in February 2021 was signed into law. 

Here’s what we know so far:

On November 6th, 2020 Governor Phil Murphy announced appointments to the Cannabis Regulatory Commission which will oversee New Jersey’s marijuana marketplace. 

This will include the appointment of Dianna Houenou as Chair and Jeff Brown as Executive Director. Krista Nash will also be appointed as a commission member. 

After the residents of New Jersey approved legalizing recreational marijuana, New Jersey’s legislature created Bill S21. The bill can be viewed here.  Originally the bill was intended for vote on November 21st 2020 but it was delayed. After the bill was debated, including some disagreements over underage use penalties, on Monday, February 22nd, 2021, the state legislature and later Governor Phil Murphy signed the bill which regulates the sale of cannabis to anyone over the age of 21. 

Requirements To Get a Cannabis Business License In New Jersey

Here is what we know so far when it comes to your requirements to be able to open a dispensary in New Jersey.

Recreational License Requirements

According to the current recreational marijuana bill:

“Each license application shall be scored and reviewed based upon a point scale with the commission determining the amount of points, the point categories, and the system of point distribution by regulation. The commission shall assign points and rank [all] applicants [, from the most to the least points,] according to the point system.”

This approach of a “point system” does fall in line with what we have seen in other states that have most recently legalized. Your application will be graded on a point system that will take into account experience, expertise, and credentials of you and your team on a wide variety of topics. To give you a sense of some of the topics you’ll be graded on, here is a potential list:

  • Environmental impact plan
  • Safety and security procedures
  • Cybersecurity plan
  • Emergency management plan
  • Diversion prevention
  • Sanitation practices plan
  • Procedures reporting adverse events
  • Proof of financial competence to carry out plans

As you can see, aside from direct cannabis expertise, there is a wide variety of topics that you must be competent on. This is because each of these topics above is part of running a cannabis business and any gap in knowledge can impact long-term success. 

Due to what has been an unprecedented year for New Jersey many new events are unfolding that will affect when and what recreational legalization will look like. By adding yourself to our New Jersey Cannabis Mailing List (below), we will keep you updated on how to open a dispensary in New Jersey and all relevant NJ news that matters, not so easy to find news, and comments based on New Jersey Legalization below.

This includes but is not limited to

  • When will new cannabis license applications be available?
  • How much will it cost to open a dispensary in New Jersey?
  • What are the requirements to open a dispensary in New Jersey?
  • What special programs will be available?
  • And more 

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