Marijuana was legalized in the Garden State on Tuesday — now get ready for a bureaucratic buzzkill.
The new law goes into effect Jan. 1. But before recreational tokers can light up, a bill regulating the budding industry must pass and dispensaries must solve a major weed shortage problem that could take months, elected officials and advocates told The Post.
“Ideally the medical dispensaries would be ready to go [recreational] in January but they don’t have enough product yet … We’re setting up a whole new industry,” said state Sen. Nicholas Scutari, who championed the approved legalization and is drafting the second bill. “I hope [growers] are in facilities right now tilling soil.”
Along with the new measure — which legalized the recreational use of pot for people 21 and older Tuesday — another bill must pass through the state legislature laying out regulations for cannabis businesses. It could be adopted as soon as the end of November, according to Scutari.
After that, the state’s 12 medical dispensaries can be licensed to start selling weed recreationally in “just months,” if they can show they have enough cannabis to supply existing patients, Scutari said.
Opening yet-to-be established pot shops will come last, and won’t likely get the green light until mid-or-late 2021, he said.
Axel Owen, of the pro-marijuana legalization group NJ CAN 2020, said the lack of pot could cause dispensaries major growing pains.
“The reality is our medical market has been growing steadily and we have to make sure that we still have a way for people to get their medicine,” he said. “Supply is a big problem.”
The cannabis industry bill will address issues including the number of dispensary licenses issued, taxes and the role wholesaler cannabis growers can play in the market.
It’s important to pass it quickly in order to hammer out the best way to grow more ganja, Owen said.
“The biggest hurdle is making sure that the legislature moves quickly. They’ve gotta figure this out fast, ” he said, adding he’s optimistic about the timeline. “I’m hearing they might even meet within a week of today.”
Cannabis business owners echoed that sense of urgency.
“The past few years that got us to legalization are just as important as the next few are — and especially the next couple of weeks,” said Scott Rudder, president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, told NJ.com.
He said 2018 legislation sponsored by Scutari is a “great place to start” with some tweaks to adjust to the current state of the marijuana industry.
New Jersey currently offers weed licenses to three kinds of medical cannabis businesses — dispensaries, manufacturers and cultivators. People who want to open dispensaries must pay a $20,000 application fee, $18,000 of which can be reimbursed if their license is denied.
Marijuana legalization advocates also stressed that New Jersey cops should stop making arrests for marijuana possession during the period before the law goes effect on Jan. 1.
“The one thing we’d like to see happen the most quickly is for marijuana to be decriminalized and for police not to continue arrest people,” Owen said. “That needs to be done as soon as humanly possible.”