Legal Sales of Recreational Marijuana to Begin in New Jersey

Legal sales of recreational marijuana are set to begin in New Jersey next week.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced in a tweet on Thursday that marijuana sales would begin in the state on April 21. Recreational marijuana for adults age 21 and over was legalized in the state following the overwhelming approval of a ballot referendum in November 2020. Murphy, a Democrat, called this week's approval of licenses for non-medical dispensaries "a historic step in our work to create a new cannabis industry."

Adults will be able to legally purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana when recreational sales begin next Thursday at 13 dispensaries. On Monday, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission approved licenses for seven medical marijuana dispensaries to also sell recreational marijuana. A list of locations for recreational sales is expected to be posted on the commission's website soon, which already lists 23 active medical dispensaries.

"This is an exciting time for New Jersey," Jeff Brown, the commission's executive director, said in a statement. "New Jerseyans voted overwhelmingly to have access to adult-use cannabis and it is now here. I am very proud of the work the Commission has done over the past year to open the market. We have been intentional and deliberate to do everything in our power to set the market on good footing to start."

Dispensaries approved for the recreational market in New Jersey must meet social equity standards and are assessed on factors that include diversity in hiring and management, support for community programs, and how many minority-owned vendors or suppliers they contract with, the commission said.

"We know that drug prohibition laws have through history disproportionately impacted Black and Brown communities—and continue to do so," Wesley McWhite III, the commission's director of Diversity and Inclusion, said in a statement. "A socially equitable cannabis market will have substantial representation of those communities in employment and in ownership."

Marijuana Legal Recreational Sales Begin New Jersey
Legal sales of recreational marijuana are set to begin in New Jersey next week. A store bearing a sign reading "Cannabis Shop" is pictured in this undated file photo. Oleg1824i/Getty

Recreational marijuana has been legalized in 18 states, as well as in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. It remains illegal at the federal level. However, legislation that would federally legalize and decriminalize the drug has recently been making its way through Congress.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, which would remove marijuana from a list of drugs in the Controlled Substances Act, passed in the House earlier this month and could become law if it passes in the Senate and is signed by President Joe Biden.

Biden's stance on legalizing recreational marijuana at the federal level is unclear. However, experts recently told Newsweek that public approval for legalization may make it unlikely that Biden would veto the bill if it reaches his desk. A Gallup poll released last November found that 68 percent of U.S. adults back recreational legalization.

"Legalization is favored by two-thirds of all Americans, an even higher percentage of Democrats, and the vast majority of younger people," Paul Quirk, a political scientist at the University of British Columbia in Canada, told Newsweek. "Vetoing marijuana legalization would make Biden public-official enemy No. 1 to many of the young voters whose support he badly needs to win back."

In addition to serving the will of a public that now largely favors legalization, states that have legalized recreational marijuana have also reaped the rewards of increased tax revenues. An analysis released by the Marijuana Policy Project earlier this month found that states generated more than $3.7 billion in revenue from legal recreational sales in 2021 alone, a 34 percent increase from 2020.

Newsweek reached out to the Marijuana Policy Project for comment.