New Jersey lawmakers have passed a measure to allow a recreational marijuana marketplace in the Garden State.
The legislation will now be sent to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, who is expected to sign the bill. Once that happens, New Jersey cannabis businesses will be able to offer recreational weed within six months.
The Democrat-led Assembly and Senate passed the bill on Thursday.
The six-month time frame would be among the shortest wait times from legalization to "market open date" for a recreational cannabis state. In Massachusetts, it took over two years from the time a similar measure was approved to the opening of the state’s first cannabis dispensaries. Nevada took eight months.
Maine, the first to open the adult-use market in New England, had the longest wait: 47 months.
The quick turnaround in New Jersey bodes well for several cannabis players, including Curaleaf Holdings Inc. CURLF, Acreage Holdings Inc. ACRDF, Green Thumb Industries Inc. GTBIF, TerrAscend Corp. TRSSF and Columbia Care Inc. CCHWF. Each company has expressed plans to expand across the state.
Last month, most New Jersey voters supported recreational cannabis in a ballot measure on Election Day. Over 67% of the respondents voted in favor of legalizing marijuana, while almost 33% voted against it.
The move was praised by reform advocates as a necessary step to stop what NORML National estimates to 32,000 cannabis arrests per year.
New Jersey voters also approved a 6.625% state tax on cannabis sales to customers aged 21 or older and permitted municipalities to charge an extra 2% tax. The measure is reportedly expected to rake in $126 million a year for New Jersey once the market is settled.
Cannabis research firm Brightfield Group expects cannabis sales to reach about $460 million in 2021 and $1.5 billion by 2025.
Whether smaller businesses will be granted recreational licenses remains to be seen. New Jersey's cannabis entrepreneurs, not affiliated with publicly traded companies, have been urging Gov. Murphy to not overlook small businesses and grant recreational cannabis licenses without the burden of an exorbitant fee.
Currently, there will be a limited number of licenses available. Reports estimate that just 37 will be available. More licenses aren't expected to released for another two years.
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