The top cannabis regulator in New Jersey faced tough questioning on Thursday during a marathon hearing that looked into the oft-delayed rollout of the state’s adult-use weed program.
Jeff Brown, executive director of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing that reportedly lasted five hours.
The hearing came less than a month after recreational cannabis sales kicked off in the Garden State, a launch that was typified by one delay after another.
The troubled launch prompted Nicholas Scutari, the president of the New Jersey state Senate, to call for the hearings back in March.
“I’m confident that if we did not start this process, the adult weed market would still not be open in New Jersey,” Scutari, a Democrat who pushed for cannabis legalization for years, said at the hearing on Thursday, as quoted by NJ.com.
The hearing also featured “industry leaders and marijuana advocates [who] discussed the pace of setting up the Garden State’s recreational market, scrutinized pricing issues, and griped over still-unwritten regulations for employers seeking clarity on when they can and can’t discipline employees who use cannabis,” according to the New Jersey Monitor.
NJ.com reported that Wesley McWhite, the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission’s director of diversity and inclusion, also testified with Brown.
Legal adult-use cannabis sales began in New Jersey last month, drawing more than 12,000 customers who generated almost $1.9 million in sales on the first day.
But that grand opening came after the state had pushed back the launch.
In February, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said the state was hopefully “within weeks” of its first adult-use sales.
But in March, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission pushed back the scheduled launch of sales after opting against awarding licenses to several would-be dispensaries.
“We may not be 100% there today, but I assure you we will get there,” Brown said following that delay. “We have a few things to address and when we address them I’m happy to return to this body with a further update.”
That was the last straw for Scutari, who said at the time that he planned to hold special legislative hearings to look into the delays.
“These delays are totally unacceptable,” Scutari said in a statement at the time. “We need to get the legal marijuana market up and running in New Jersey. This has become a failure to follow through on the public mandate and to meet the expectations for new businesses and consumers.”
In calling for the hearings, Scutari said he wanted “explanations on the repeated hold-ups in expanding medical dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana and in the opening of retail facilities for adult-use cannabis,” and to learn “what can be done to meet the demands and reduce the costs of medical marijuana.”
On Thursday, Brown, according to NJ.com, “said the CRC delayed issuing licenses in March over fears there would not be enough supply of marijuana for both the medical and recreational markets.”
The New Jersey Monitor reported that the “lack of edibles in the Garden State was also a topic Thursday,” noting that “people can find flower, oils that can be vaped or ingested, and limited gummies” in dispensaries.
According to the publication, “edibles like cookies and brownies aren’t allowed under the current law, Brown noted, and any change to that would need to be approved by the Legislature.”
“There are ingestible avenues to purchase and consume, and we hope to expand those in the future. I don’t have a specific timeline,” Brown said, as quoted by the Monitor.
Per the Monitor, Scutari replied: “I’ll call you on that.”