Will NJ adult-use weed market squeeze out patients who need it most?
As New Jersey moves closer to an operational adult-use market for marijuana, advocates for medicinal weed wonder if the transition will start to squeeze out the patients who need cannabis for serious medical conditions.
But those on the supply side say that shouldn't be a concern — certain suppliers will have to certify that they have enough product to feed both markets, and there could be more rules in the future dictating a certain amount of product that must be set aside for those who need it most.
David Knowlton, chairman and CEO of Cannabis Education & Research Institute, said there's an economic interest to be in the recreational market, and there's only so much "grow" out there, since what's supplied here must be grown here. And, he said, the strain of a marijuana preferred by a recreational user may not be the strain that's needed by, for example, a cancer patient.
"Do we have enough product in New Jersey to allow folks to open recreational? We don't believe they do," Knowlton said.
Medical marijuana dispensaries that choose to shift some of their operation toward recreational sales will be required by the state to declare that they have enough product on hand to satisfy medicinal customers. Knowlton thinks that would be "impossible to enforce."
New Jersey in December began accepting applications for recreational cannabis cultivators, manufacturers and testing labs. In March, the application process will begin for those who want licensing for retail.
Curaleaf plans to convert all three of its New Jersey medical marijuana dispensaries to operations that serve both medical and adult-use customers. Patrik Jonsson, regional president of the Northeast for Curaleaf, said there is a "vast surplus" of marijuana in the New Jersey market right now.
"I believe Curaleaf on its own would be able to supply the entire medical market of New Jersey without any other operator," Jonsson said. "We can, without any doubt, continue to safely supply product to the medical patients with zero impact."
Advocates have been asking the Cannabis Regulatory Commission to release information about how much cultivation is available in New Jersey, so they can get a better picture of supply throughout the Garden State. The CRC did not respond to New Jersey 101.5's requests for comment.
"There is zero chance, if done the right way, that the medical program will ever run out of product — as long as the state puts in some guardrails for us to operate under," Jonsson said.
An example of a "guardrail," he said, would be a requirement that operators set aside a certain amount of product for medical users, based on prior sales.
"Our priority remains the medical patients. We will continue to serve the patients as long as there are patients," Jonsson said.
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.