Marijuana Now Legal in NJ: What’s the Difference?
by Matthew Gould
Recreational marijuana is now legal in New Jersey, but many residents are struggling to notice a difference. Currently, residents can smoke, vape, or consume marijuana freely. The bill signed by Governor Phil Murphy on January 1, 2021 made it legal for residents to purchase up to 1 ounce of marijuana from any dispensary with a state-license. There is just one catch: there is no place for recreational users to purchase it legally—yet.
At present, 13 dispensaries are operating in New Jersey but serve Medical Marijuana Program’s (MMP’s) exclusively. It is unclear if or when these medical dispensaries will open their doors to recreational users. Still, until then, residents must sit in limbo as state-licenses are issued slowly to new growers.
Besides, a state-license is only the first step of many before customers can expect to walk into a new dispensary. One of the most considerable obstacles when it comes to recreational marijuana is demand. Dispensaries, especially existing MMP’s, are concerned that consumer demands will be greater than they can supply.
In response, cultivators and new growers are looking to increase marijuana production exponentially. However, that takes time. While residents wait, the economy continues to worsen and new mutations of the coronavirus abound. As a result, some believe the legalization of marijuana will help New Jersey in its road toward economic recovery.
In an interview on the Jim Kerr Rock & Roll Morning Show last year, Gov. Murphy said legalizing weed was “incredibly smart.” The expected revenue generated from recreational sales will likely top $1.9 billion, according to a fiscal estimate from December 2019. These sales will provide the State with over $125 million in new tax revenue, hopefully offsetting debt gained during the pandemic.
However, some residents remain skeptical. Richard LoRusso, a 52-year-old addiction specialist and recovery coach asked, “How are we going to benefit from marijuana?” He said, during an interview, about how large revenue projects like “recreational marijuana, casinos, and the (Atlantic City) express-way (rate change)” rarely bring a noticeable change to everyday life.
LoRusso, like many others, remains skeptical that recreational marijuana will be any different.