NJ on April 21, 2022 finally joined the growing roster of states where marijuana can be legally purchased for recreational use by adults — a milestone marked both by state officials and happy customers proclaiming “at last.”
- Gov. Phil Murphy, who campaigned on legalizing pot, was among the dignitaries on hand at Zen Leaf in Elizabeth, one of 13 locations across NJ now in the legal retail recreational-pot business.
- Sales for now are limited to existing medical-marijuana dispensaries that won approval to expand their operations to recreational users; more locations are due to come online in the future.
- It’s been nearly 18 months since state voters overwhelmingly approved the legalization of recreational pot in a referendum; 17 states and the District of Columbia have already taken the step.
The state Cannabis Regulatory Commission has issued the following tips for cannabis customers in New Jersey:
- Do: Be patient – expect long lines and wait your turn to be served.
- Do: Start low and go slow – follow product instructions and remember ingestible products can take longer to take effect than smoking or vaping. Call NJ Poison Center at 800-222-1222 if you are concerned you may have ingested or used too much.
- Do: Store your legal cannabis products securely, out of the reach of kids. Legal cannabis products are in child safe packaging, but always keep them secure and out of the reach of anyone under the age of 21.
- Don’t: Drive while high. Driving under the influence of cannabis is illegal and dangerous.
- Don’t: Cross state lines. It is illegal to transport legal cannabis products from New Jersey outside of New Jersey.
- Don’t: Buy more than one ounce. Consumers can’t purchase more than an ounce in a single transaction, and legally cannot possess more than one ounce at any time. Consumers could face criminal penalties if they disregard these limits.
- Do: Be safe, be smart, follow the rules.
Highland Park’s ordinance permits the operation of cannabis dispensaries (up to six retail dispensary licenses and one medical dispensary license) and delivery of cannabis products in the borough. The retail cannabis outlets can operate only in the Central Business District. The ordinance prohibits cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, and wholesale businesses from operating in the borough.
Although some borough residents at recent meetings spoke out against the ordinance, council members heard from many more residents over the past year in favor of allowing cannabis retail outlets for economic, social justice, and common-sense reasons.
Mayor Gayle Brill Mittler of Highland Park stated: “With cannabis sales slated to be allowed in our two large bordering towns, it is a moot point as to whether or not there will be cannabis consumed in our town. It most certainly will. What this new ordinance does is enable Highland Park to influence how cannabis will be distributed in Highland Park and to reap tax benefits from its retail sales.”
“The residents of Highland Park overwhelmingly support the legalization of cannabis,” said Councilman Matthew Hale. “Our ordinance takes a measured approach, to fit the needs of Highland Park. There is a way to go in this process but Highland Park is ready to be a leader in the responsible use of cannabis.”
He and other council members noted that in the statewide ballot question in November 2020 on whether or not to legalize the recreational use of cannabis in New Jersey, more than two-thirds of Highland Park residents voted ‘Yes.’
In preparation for the vote to allow cannabis sales in Highland Park, the mayor and council consulted with the police department, the public schools, and the borough’s social worker. The Highland Park Public Schools have planned a comprehensive program to discourage children from experimenting with cannabis, a program similar to the one the schools have employed for years that has successfully discouraged drinking and driving by teens. The borough’s social worker has developed a set of guidelines for parents on how to talk with their children about the dangers to school age children of cannabis use. These guidelines will soon be available to all residents.
“The measure has an important social justice, as well as economic, benefit,” said Councilman Matthew Hersh. “It has the potential to boost our downtown, at the same time retailers are working closely with municipal officials to improve the viability of the downtown. Highland Park has a new redevelopment plan, along with an energized effort to restore post-COVID activies in the Central Business District and to improve the appearance of the retail stores. It is also essential to recognize the fact that it complies with New Jersey State law legalizing recreational cannabis for adults 21 and over.”
The state law prioritizes licenses for dispensaries to go to ethnic and gender minorities, and it has ceased arrests for marijuana possession of amounts up to six ounces.