Nine years ago, New Jersey inaugurated its medical marijuana program. Since then, the state has been struggling through the approval process for the six dispensaries allowed under state law. Today, the biggest and last of the state-mandated six dispensaries opens its doors in New Jersey’s most densely populated region.
New Jersey’s Restrictive Medical Marijuana Program
Medical marijuana came to New Jersey in 2009 while notoriously anti-weed Governor Chris Christie assumed office. While governor, Christie called medical marijuana “a front for legalization” on radio show New Jersey 101.5.
“I am not going to allow de-facto legalization of marijuana in this state or regular legalization of marijuana in this state by statute. It’s not going to happen on my watch,” he added.
Though he couldn’t stop New Jersey from legalizing medical cannabis, Christie succeeded in delaying it for a long time. It took two years following legalization for New Jersey residents to have access to the herb.
This Dispensary Has Waited Seven Years To Open
No one has suffered more from these delays more than Harmony dispensary. In 2011, Chris Christie approved Harmony’s dispensary application. But it took the Health Department until 2017 to complete criminal and financial background checks, according to NJ.com.
Since then, Harmony has struggled with local land laws and other approvals. The dispensary has been producing weed since last fall, but state law prevented them from selling to the public until Monday. Before then, state officials claimed that Harmony wasn’t prepared to meet public needs.
New Jersey’s Last Dispensary Opened This Week
According to New Jersey 2009 medical weed laws, there can only be six dispensaries in the state. Since then, marijuana retail locations have opened in Egg Harbor, Bellmawr, Cranbury, Montclair and Woodbridge. Harmony, located at 600 Meadowlands Parkway, Suite 15 in Secaucus, is the last of the six to open.
Harmony Communications Director Leslie Hoffman told Green Rush Daily that their line includes flower, pre-ground flower, and pre-rolled joints.
It’s also the most significant of New Jersey’s dispensaries. Harmony is located in the state’s most populous region and is the biggest dispensary to open so far. “It’s been a long haul,” Hoffman explained, “the patients need us, the demand for more access for patients in the northern part of the state has been pretty extreme.”
Though the number of dispensaries remains capped at six, demand continues to grow. According to High Times, 100 new patients sign up for the state’s medical marijuana program every day. This is partially due to the expansion to the list of qualifying conditions passed by Governor Phil Murphy last month.
Harmony hopes to open more cultivation facilities and dispensaries in the near future, though they focusing on medical marijuana for now.
When Will the Garden State Legalize Recreational Weed?
Democratic Governor Murphy’s take on Mary Jane couldn’t be more different from Christie’s. Though Murphy has only smoked weed “once or twice,” he promised to take action towards recreational legalization in the first 100 days of office. For Murphy, cannabis represents a huge tax source for the state, and marijuana prohibition remains a major issue for social equality.
Over 100 days since Murphy’s promise to legalize recreational weed, the Governor still expects to legalize weed by the end of 2018. If that’s the case, Harmony will be far from the state’s last dispensary.