New Jersey has expanded their medical marijuana program due to increases in patient demand coupled with shortages in supply. Recently, the amount of patients in the New Jersey medical marijuana program has sky-rocketed from approximately 17,000 patients to just under 50,000 after adding several illnesses, including Opioid Use Disorder, to the list of conditions qualifying patients for medical marijuana. As a result, New Jersey’s medical marijuana program fell behind their ability to serve patients in a timely, affordable manner.

Previously, the state only allowed for 12 medical marijuana providers, all of which were vertically integrated businesses. This meant that 12 companies (only 6 of which are currently operational) were responsible for growing, processing, and selling marijuana in-house to all medical marijuana patients in the state. However, the new program is a stark departure from this previous model.

The new program allows for dramatic increases in the number of marijuana business and no longer requires marijuana businesses to vertically execute all aspects of marijuana sales. The state will begin issuing separate licenses for growers, processors, and retailers, and is seeking approximately 24 cultivators, 30 manufacturers, and 54 dispensaries. Ideally the state would like these business evenly distributed throughout the state with 38 businesses in the northern region, 38 in the central region, and 32 in the southern region. By issuing more licenses without vertical integration requirements, the state believes they can fix shortage issues and also promote small to medium sized business participation in the field.

It is worth noting, however, potential complications to New Jersey’s medical marijuana program may arise with another expansion pending under Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act. The bill was approved by the Senate in a 33-4 vote on May 30, 2019 and seeks, among other things, to reduce stringent patient-doctor barriers to qualify patients for medical marijuana. Despite this pending legislation, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s pro medical marijuana stance provides optimism that the bill will expand and properly implement the state’s medical marijuana directives.

Permit application forms for Alternative Treatment Centers will be made available at http://www.nj.gov/health/medicalmarijuana on July 1, with a deadline on August 15.