By, Mike Catalini
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey has 146 applications to choose from for six new medical cannabis dispensaries across the state, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018.
Murphy announced the number of applications from 106 companies vying for two locations in northern, central and southern New Jersey.
It’s the latest development since Murphy announced in July 2018 that he was seeking to double the number of dispensaries from six to 12. He also said program participation doubled to 30,000 people, up from 15,000 since Murphy was inaugurated in January. His predecessor, Republican Gov. Chris Christie, was an ardent opponent of cannabis legalization and took little interest in the state’s medical marijuana program, which was enacted shortly before he took office.
“This is another step forward in removing barriers put in place by the previous administration and creating a more consumer-friendly program,” Murphy said in a statement.
The application period closed Aug. 31, 2018. Those chosen to proceed will be announced Nov. 1, 2018. The administration said there were 50 applicants in the north, 45 in the central part of the state and 51 in the south.
Applicants paid a $20,000 fee, though the administration said that $18,000 of that fee would be returned to unsuccessful candidates.
Supporters of cannabis expansion hailed the news as a sign of interest in a growing market. They also said a bigger market is favorable for consumers who could benefit from competition.
“The fact that we have so many different organizations going after these six licenses is only going to benefit the patient,” said Scott Rudder, who heads the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association.
The state’s six current dispensaries were not eligible to apply, though they can apply to set up satellite locations, according to the Health Department.
This latest expansion applies to facilities that combine cultivation, manufacturing, and dispensing in one business.
Opening new centers comes as the state considers legalizing recreational cannabis, though legislation has not yet moved through the Democratic-led Legislature. Murphy has already expanded the state’s medical marijuana program.
In March 2018, his administration added five conditions eligible for medical marijuana coverage: anxiety, migraines, Tourette’s syndrome, chronic pain related to musculoskeletal disorders and chronic visceral pain.
New Jersey’s program began roughly a decade ago under Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine. It was slowly implemented under Christie.
Murphy also lowered the patient fee to participate in the program from $200 to $100, with a $20 fee for veterans and seniors.
The governor also allowed doctors who prescribe marijuana not to appear on a public registry. Murphy has said there was a sense that doctors who prescribed the drug faced a stigma.
More than 100 companies applied for six new medical marijuana dispensary licenses New Jersey has made available. Applicants, 146 in all, hope to see the same opportunity to serve patients just as they do in Washington and legal medical marijuana states. In this undated photo, budtenders assisting customers at Evergreen Market Dispensary in Washington. (Banner photo by Harley Lery; Instagram: @thecannacam; Facebook: The Canna Cam.)