By MIKE CATALINI
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Recreational marijuana sales in New Jersey for those 21 and older will begin April 21, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday.
Murphy’s announcement on Twitter comes just three days after state regulators green lighted permits for seven facilities that already sell medical cannabis to begin retailing recreational marijuana.
“This is a historic step in our work to create a new cannabis industry,” Murphy said.
The news comes about a year after the state’s regulatory commission started operating, and a year and a half after voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot question to permit recreational marijuana for people 21 and older.
New Jersey is one of 18 states, along with the District of Columbia, that have legalized recreational marijuana. There also are 37 states, including New Jersey, that have legalized medical marijuana.
Three of the seven facilities, known as alternative treatment centers, are in the northern part of the state. Three are in the south, and one is in central New Jersey.
To get approval, the centers agreed that the coming influx of recreational buyers won’t interrupt access for patients. The facilities said they would reserve parking spaces for patients as well as keep hours specifically for patients only.
There are about 130,000 medical marijuana patients in the state, with an estimated roughly 800,000 potential recreational consumers, and fewer than 800,000 estimated “tourism” consumers, according to the commission.
The alternative treatment centers that already had medical cannabis retail sales are getting a head start in the recreational market, but regulators have attached strings to their advantage. The centers have to meet social equity standards, such as providing technical knowledge to new marijuana businesses, especially social equity applicants — those located in economically struggling parts of the state or people who have had cannabis-related offenses.
“We remain committed to social equity,” Cannabis Regulatory Commission Chair Dianna Houenou said in a statement. “We promised to build this market on the pillars of social equity and safety. Ultimately, we hope to see businesses and a workforce that reflect the diversity of the state.”
How much tax revenue New Jersey gets from recreational marijuana isn’t clear. Murphy’s fiscal year 2023 budget, which is pending before the Democrat-led Legislature, estimates revenues of just $19 million in a nearly $49 billion budget. In 2019, as legalization of recreational marijuana was still just pending before voters, he had estimated about $60 million in revenue.
Legislation governing the recreational market calls for the 6.625% sales tax to apply, with 70% of the proceeds going to areas disproportionately affected by marijuana-related arrests. Black residents were likelier — up to three times as much — to face marijuana charges than white residents. Towns can also levy a tax of up to 2%.
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