New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is fighting to legalize recreational marijuana in his state, and while the reaction from his legislators has been decidedly mixed, the number of New Jerseyans in favor of legalization is on the rise. Thirty states including New Jersey have legalized medical marijuana and eight of those have legalized recreational adult use, so the Governor has examples to look to. Cannabis entrepreneurs across the country are watching the garden state’s industry unfold and have some advice to share.
Medical use in New Jersey was legalized in 2010 but strict regulations there have kept it very limited. Governor Murphy has recently expanded the list of illnesses that cannabis can be recommended for and taken other actions to make the substance more widely available to patients. Rolling out the expanded medical market well will be key to recreational acceptance, said Bob Fireman, chief executive of MariMed Inc., a Massachusetts-based consulting and management firm for legal medical cannabis companies. “New Jersey’s medical program success will be critical to influencing cannabis legalization support,” Fireman said. If voters see patients getting the help they need and tax money coming in without an increase in crime or drug abuse, they will feel more comfortable with legal cannabis.
New Jersey should adopt best practices from other states said Brian Campbell, co-founder of Tökr, an app connecting consumers with dispensaries and their inventories. New Jersey’s market will be “highly monitored and regulated from day one,” he said, and can use lessons from other places to help move legalization forward responsibly. This might include the adoption of marketing restrictions, seed-to-sale tracking, and child-safe packaging requirements from places like Colorado and Washington state.
It’s important to review and issue enough licenses “so cultivators, testing facilities, and all of the relevant intermediaries can begin to function,” said Wil Ralston, President of SinglePoint. His Nevada-based firmacquires small to mid-sized cannabis-related companies focused mainly on mobile technologies. At one point when recreational consumption became legal, Nevada ran out of cannabis due to high demand he said. That’s not good for consumers, businesses or the state which expects more than $100M in tax revenues over the next two years.
The governor’s reasons to legalize cannabis include economic and social justice factors. Murphy noted in a speech that New Jersey spends $111 million a year on low level possession adjudication, and that people of color are three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses as Caucasian people, even though their use rates are the same.
An April poll from Monmouth University found that 59% of state residents support legalization, while 37% are opposed, an 11-point increase from a similar poll it conducted 2014, when 48% supported legalization and 47% opposed it. 20,000 New Jerseyans are now enrolled in the state’s MMJ program.
Fireman is optimistic that legal recreational cannabis will come to New Jersey. The states’ demographics, research showing cannabis’ benefits, and growing political support he said, are going to make it happen.
By: Julie Weed, Forbes