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“Surprising”: Cannabis sales in New Jersey are causing excited buyers Health

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MIKE CATALINI – Associated Press

BLOOMFIELD, New Jersey (AP) – Michael Burroughs wore a Grateful Dead T-shirt and a face mask to Jerry Garcia on Thursday the opening day of a recreational marijuana sale in New Jersey, one of dozens of people lined up at dawn to join the holiday scene .

“It’s pretty weird, exciting, and if I’m stopped on the way home and ever asked if I have drugs in the car, I’m now allowed to say, ‘That’s it,'” Burroughs said, rising. a canister with a marijuana flower he had just purchased. Storage of cannabis is now banned in New Jersey, but driving under the influence of alcohol is still prohibited.

Burroughs, 60, has joined a steady stream of other novelty seekers, longtime marijuana users and medical patients at RISE in Bloomfield, near Newark’s largest city and near New York City.

With thunderous music, free donuts in the parking lot, a steel drum and a balloon arch at the entrance, the New Jersey launch with cannabis for people aged 21 had a greater sense of fair than the opening of the store.

Hagan Seeley, 23, said he only learned the day before that recreational sales were starting and decided to see what the scene looked like. He was impressed by the playground, adorned with an old station-style table and long wooden tables with items under glass balls.

“That’s right. It feels safe. It feels like everything you want it to be, not everything you could get anywhere else, ”Seeley said.

The beginning of the the recreational market appears in a week Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has announced that state regulators have cleared the way for recreational sales at seven “alternative treatment centers” that have already offered medical cannabis. Seven centers operate 13 facilities across the state.

Murphy, who has long supported the legalization of marijuana for leisure and signed a bill to create a market, appeared at ZenLeaf in Elizabeth on the first day of recreational sales. The governor said he would not try marijuana, saying earlier in the week it was not his “thing” and that he preferred scotch tape. Murphy said he would also seek a “federal settlement” of marijuana, although it was unclear whether he meant legalization of recreation, national decriminalization or something else.

Hadi Batis, 47, is a Navy veteran and medical marijuana card holder for post-traumatic stress disorder. He is a regular visitor to ZenLeaf and said he has never seen a place as busy as Thursday.

New Jersey’s recreational cannabis law gives priority to colored people to obtain dispensary licenses, and that fact will help break down the “brick walls” people have faced for years during the drug war, Batis said. “It’s time for minority, colored, black, brown people to really get a chance to go into business.”

Charles Pfeiffer stood in line for about 2.5 hours and said he believes he is the first entertainment customer to make a purchase at ZenLeaf. When he was let into the store, he cheered loudly and lifted the air with his hands.

He bought hemp flowers and candy for about $ 140 and joked about how soon he would have to come back to buy more.

“I’ll be back tomorrow,” he said. “I’m kidding, probably in a week.”

ZenLeaf employee Destiny Pimentel said she realized the “benefits of responsible cannabis use” after the death of her older brother. “When I consume cannabis, I’m not so worried and I can focus,” she said. She added that she aims to show people that you can use cannabis and make a successful career.

New Jersey is among the 18 states as well as the District of Columbia with legalized marijuana markets for recreation. Thirty-seven states, including New Jersey, have legalized medical marijuana.

New Jersey was the first among its closest neighbors to start recreational sales.

Government officials have said New York is moving forward with the holiday market, but sales are expected to begin by the end of the year.

In neighboring Pennsylvania, there is medical cannabis, but not recreational. Legislation allowing marijuana for vacation in Delaware was repealed in March.

Ben Cowler of Green Thumb Industries, which runs the Bloomfield Dispensary, was at the opening on Thursday. He said he was looking forward to growing demand as news of the start of sales was known to the public for only a week.

“This is the moment in American history when the 2.0 ban was lifted,” he said before the opening.

To get the approval of regulators, agencies told regulators they would not cut off access to patients with medical marijuana.

Ziad Ghanem of TerrAscend said that initially the centers would have a “narrow menu” for recreational users to accommodate patients.

The centers must also meet social justice standards, such as providing technical expertise to new marijuana companies, especially social justice applicants – those in economically difficult parts of the state or people who have committed cannabis crimes.

New Jersey’s tax revenue is expected to rise, but it’s not yet clear how much. Murphy’s budget for fiscal year 2023 is under consideration by the legislature and estimates revenue at just $ 19 million with a budget of nearly $ 49 billion.

Legislation governing the recreational market provides for a sales tax of 6.625%, with 70% of the proceeds going to areas disproportionately affected by marijuana-related arrests. Black residents are three times more likely to face marijuana charges than white residents. Cities can also levy up to 2% tax.

In a note to law enforcement officials across the state, Acting Attorney General Matt Platkin reminded police that unregulated marijuana remains an illegal substance.

State regulators say dispensaries can sell up to 1 ounce of cannabis, which means an ounce of dried flowers, or 5 grams of concentrate or 1,000 milligrams of edible foods such as chewable hemp. Perishable foods such as cookies and cakes are not available.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.

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