State of the States: New Jersey

Welcome to State of the States: New Jersey, the first is a series of reports on the states that are legalizing plant medicines like cannabis. This blog will include an excerpt from the report with the whole report is available to download at the bottom of this post.

New Jersey is a state whose personality and tenacity are undeniable. In a year where many other states were forced to abandon their Adult-Use legalization efforts, New Jersey pushed forward with the Question 1 ballot initiative. Now adults 21 years of age and older can legally purchase, possess, and consume up to 1 oz of cannabis. This state has posed interesting challenges in the past for patients and cannabis businesses alike.

NJ Timeline of Legalization

 In an effort to better understand the Garden State and its regulation of one of the hallmark plant medicines we have prepared a brief report on New Jersey’s legalization of cannabis from early medical cannabis to full Adult-Use, or recreational. This report is designed to provide a brief overview of the state-legal cannabis landscape for consumer, patients, and cannabis business professionals. Download the free report to learn more about the exciting changes in the New Jersey cannabis market including the state’s approach to Social Equity and addressing community the impact of the War on Drugs.



New Jersey’s Cannabis Legalization Timeline

2010 S119 the Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act passes. The qualifying conditions are as follows: cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, HIV-AIDS, seizure disorder, Lou Gehrig’s disease, severe muscle spasms, muscular dystrophy, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, and any terminal illness with the patient will die within one year.

2012 The first Alternative Treatment Center (the non-profit dispensary) opens. The state limits the maximum number of ATCs to 6 for the state.

2013 expansion of medical marijuana law to include child patients.

Late 2015 for additional ATC‘s open in Egg Harbor Township, Wood Bridge, Bellmawr, and Cranbury.

2016 Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder added to the list of qualifying conditions.

2017 Qualifying conditions expanded to include: migraines, Tourette’s syndrome, autism related anxiety, and Alzheimer’s disease related anxiety. Also included is chronic pain related to: opioid use disorder, arthritis, back and neck pain, sciatica, diabetes, surgeries, injuries, neuropathy, Lyme disease, lupus, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, pancreatitis, and others.

2018 The sixth ATC opens in Secaucus.

2019 The Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act passes. It expands the number of slots for medical marijuana providers, reduce the number of medical eligibility verifications from four times a year to once per year, and increased the purchasing limit from 2 ounces to 3 ounces. 

2020 Question 1 passes legalizing Adult-Use market for the state.


The State of New Jersey joined the ranks of states who legalized cannabis for responsible Adult-Use in 2020. New Jersey has posed interesting challenges for patients and cannabis business owners alike, so it is important to understand the evolution of current cannabis laws and regulations as the state is moving into position to develop regulations for their newly legalized Adult-Use market. This report will address the evolution of cannabis regulation in the state of New Jersey,  the changes coming that can have a major impact on the New Jersey cannabis market, as well as current challenges to the timely implementation of the new laws.


The initial medical cannabis market had a limited list of qualifying conditions and some challenging restrictions for cannabis business owners. This section will cover challenges for owners including licensing fees and restrictions, qualifying conditions, and program requirements for patients.



Businesses that wanted to become Alternative Treatment Centers (ATC) had to submit an application fee of $20,000 for each application that they have submitted paid in two separate checks one in the amount of $2000 and the other in the amount of $18,000. If they were unsuccessful the Department would retain the $2000 fee and destroy the remaining $18,000 check. Successful applicants had to pay an annual fee for the review of their permit renewal applications of $20,000, a $10,000 fee if they change the location of their Alternative Treatment Center, a $2000 fee for any change of capacity or physical modification or addition to the facility, and transfer of ownership of a permit was also $20,000. Potential cannabis business owners had to submit to what has become an industry standard for ownership requirements in terms of establishing identity, percentage of ownership, providing background information and resumes, and submitting to a criminal background check. Under consideration would be any felony drug convictions, any disciplinary actions attached to similar cannabis business licenses in other state legal markets, and anything else that would raise a red flag for potential fraud or diversion of cannabis product. Applicants with prior criminal convictions were afforded a process to explain the rehabilitation in order to qualify as an owner or an employee of a cannabis business.


In terms of operations, somethings that stand out about the original medical cannabis program are that a seed-to-sale software was not required for inventory, pesticides were not allowed to be used in cultivation as there were no pesticides approved for cannabis cultivation, and unused marijuana or surplus inventory had to be provided to the New Jersey State police for destructionThe restrictions against pesticide use lead to many cultivators exploring pest management through the use of beneficial predatory insectsWith New Jersey’s requirement that a patient is only allowed to choose one Alternative Treatment Center as their medical cannabis provider, restrictions on pesticide use that excluded organic pesticides, as well as any additional burden of having to have unused cannabis destroyed by the New Jersey State Police, it should come as no surprise that operating in New Jersey presented its fair share of challenges. Some of these challenges came in the form of a limited number of qualifying conditions which limited the potential patient pool and some of these challenges came from the hurdles that patients had to overcome to qualify for the medical cannabis program.      


Qualifying Conditions

Qualifying conditions that New Jersey determined eligible for medical cannabis use included: if a patient were resistant or intolerant to conventional medical therapy for seizure disorders including epilepsy, intractable skeletal muscular spasticity, or glaucoma; if they had severe or chronic pain, severe nausea or vomiting, cachexia or wasting syndrome resulting from the condition or treatment of HIV/AIDS or cancer; ALS, multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer, muscular dystrophy, or inflammatory bowel disease including Crohn’s disease; and finally terminal illness if the physician determined that the patient would not live longer than one year was also a condition for qualifying for the medical cannabis program. Children suffering from these conditions were not initially considered qualifying patients.    


Program Requirements for Patients

Medical cannabis patients are required to register with the Medicinal Marijuana Program by applying with a doctor’s recommendation that stated the patient has a qualifying condition and submitting a $200 fee for a registration card. This fee was the same for caregivers. The fee was due upon initial application and subsequent renewals and was reduced to $20 for any applicant that could demonstrate their eligibility to receive services under the New Jersey Medicaid program, eligibility to receive food stamp benefits, New Jersey Temporary Disability Insurance benefits, or Social Security Disability benefits. Patient had to register at one ATC at any given time. This meant that a patient could only choose one dispensary as their provider of medicinal cannabisPatients have to demonstrate their New Jersey residency and the state did not offer a reciprocity for patients from other legal medical cannabis states. Initially minors could not receive medicinal cannabis. We will discuss the expansion that did include minors in the next section. Caregivers had to undergo similar requirements in terms of establishing residency and other identifying information to qualify as a caregiver. However, the additional requirements for caregivers were that they could only be a caregiver for one medical cannabis patient, could not be the patient’s doctor, and had to submit to a criminal background check. Caregivers were not allowed to have any drug related criminal background, presumably as a concern about diversion. Caregivers and patients were not allowed to cultivate medicinal cannabis.     

Medical Expanded

The medical cannabis market had two major expansions that reshaped the medical market: the addition of minors to the qualifying patient pool, an expanded list of qualifying conditions, an increase to purchasing limits, adjustments to operating requirements, limited reciprocity for medical cannabis patients from other states for up to six months, and an increase to the number of available cannabis business licenses. The inclusion of minors into the medical cannabis program increased the patient pool and the visibility of cannabis as a therapeutic product. This section will cover challenges for owners including licensing fees and restrictions, qualifying conditions, and program requirements for patients.


Ownership requirements, application requirements, and fee requirements do not appear to have changed. Do the state does not seem to require a seed-to-sale inventory software, there is a requirement for regular monthly inventory that needs to be kept on file digitally for two years

Qualifying Conditions

Qualifying conditions include all of the following of a patient who is intolerant to conventional medical therapy for seizure disorders, including epilepsy, intractable skeletal muscular spasticity or glaucoma. Additional following conditions if severe chronic pain, severe nausea or vomiting, cachexia or wasting syndrome results from the condition or treatment there of of HIV/AIDS or cancer. Also on the list is Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer, muscular dystrophy or inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease. Anxiety chronic pain associated with musculoskeletal disorder, chronic pain of the visceral organ, migraines, Tourette’s syndrome, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder all are also qualifying conditions. Opioid use disorder provided the qualifying patient is participating in and remaining compliant with medication assisted treatment for the opioid use disorder, terminal illness if the physician Has determined that the patient will live less than 12 months, and finally any other medical condition or treatment that is approved by the Department. This expansion of qualifying conditions has led to a larger patient pool in comparison to other compassionate use states.



The major changes in terms of qualifying patients in the New Jersey medical cannabis program was a reduction overall in both the qualifying patient and caregiver fee from $200 down to $100 and the application for issuance or renewal of a registry identification card was brought down to $20. There don’t appear to be any major changes to the caregiver restrictions besides the reduction in fees.


In November 2020 the state of New Jersey passed Adult-Use cannabis legalization via ballot initiative. this ballot initiative legalized possession and sale two adults 21 years of age and older and set the tone to establish an Adult-Use cannabis market in New Jersey. The state legislature worked to pass bills to put the ballot initiative into action. According to the legalization summary provided by these bills impacted legal  and personal liberty; expungement, release, and resentencing in connection to criminal arrests and convictions related to cannabis; providing a licensing and regulatory structure; a framework for social equity and inclusion in the industry; establish a requirement for labor piece considerations; outlined local control and taxation guidelines; and standardized penalties for under age use of cannabis and alcohol. to read the full summary follow the link here. As we did above for medical and expanded medical cannabis, we will look at the impact for businesses, impact in terms of accessibility instead of qualifying conditions, impact on consumers instead of patients.


***Learn more about the potential impact of New Jersey’s Adult-Use market, the state’s Social Equity efforts, and the challenges that may affect the roll out of the Adult-Use regulations and privileged license application process by reading the full report. Enjoy our inaugural report of the State of the States series on us, as all of the State of the States reports are intended to be. Read more about the State of the States series below.***

State of the States is our series where we provide a summary overview of each state, its legalization history and its current decriminalization or legalization status for plant medicine. Each new report is designed to aid in understanding the opportunities available in each of these states as well as building a historical narrative on the growth and development of plant medicine industries. Each of these reports are a gift to the communities that have advocated for legalization and put in the work to build these industries. Green Rush Indexed Data’s research for each of these reports is designed to further the M.I.R.A. Project’s goal of preserving the history of the emerging plant medicine markets through conducting research and partnering with industry participants to build a collection of objects, documents, ephemera, and interviews. If you or your company need more detailed reports on a state market including demographic breakdowns, tax rates, employment figures, etc. Green Rush Indexed Data offers custom reports and will gladly discuss conducting the research you need. Green Rush Indexed Data’s M.I.R.A. Project is an ongoing preservation effort that you can learn more about here.

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