Nearly a year after passing a constitutional amendment to legalize cannabis, New Jersey has yet to open a single retail cannabis store. While the industry has yet to take off, that isn’t stopping regulators from preemptively banning one of the most popular cannabis products.
When it comes to the cannabis products that consumers want, flower remains king. Vaporizer pens and concentrates for dabbing have been slowly catching up with flower as consumers seek a quicker way to get the desired effects of cannabis without burning the plant itself.
However, cannabis edibles have also been gaining popularity. Avoiding the need for any sort of inhalation at all, edibles are great for consumers who don’t want to vape or smoke, but still want the effects of cannabis.
Cannabis beverages have seen the greatest growth since the beginning of 2020, when cannabis sales skyrocketed across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cannabis capsule products have also grown noticeably in popularity, showing that consumers are seeking a way to consume cannabis without, well, consuming traditional cannabis.
With such growth in the edible cannabis market, it would seem obvious to any potential industry that is about to open that edibles will be a high-demand product. Higher demand means higher profits, which is what any state is seeking when legalizing cannabis.
Unless you’re New Jersey.
Ban on almost all cannabis edibles
Despite having no functional legal cannabis industry to base their decision, regulators in charge of New Jersey’s recreational cannabis have decided to ban all forms of edible cannabis products except for lozenges. This means traditional products consumers would likely be familiar with — cookies, brownies, gummies, beverages — are all prohibited.
The reasoning behind the ban is the same used by many states when they first legalize; the children. Concern over edible products that might appeal to children is a consistent issue in the legal cannabis industry.
While other states passed new regulations requiring child-proof packaging and prohibiting edibles from being designed in a manner that would be appealing to kids (i.e. gummy bears, star-shaped cookies, etc.), New Jersey has decided to take a much more restrictive approach.
According to the new set of regulations passed by New Jersey cannabis regulators, “ingestible forms of cannabis… shall only include syrups, pills, tablets, capsules, and chewable forms.”
A growing and thriving grey market
Just because regulators are dragging their feet in getting a functional legal cannabis industry up and running doesn’t mean that the people aren’t already taking advantage of the new law. Seemingly taking a tip from the Washington D.C. playbook, New Jersey has begun to develop a thriving grey market industry.
While there is nowhere to legally buy or sell cannabis directly, there’s a workaround. Similar to how D.C.’s grey market operates, New Jersey currently has a gift/donation system in place to skirt the current regulations.
In this grey market, a consumer may find a delivery service online. One the website one might see several different cannabis products, or “packages” as they might be called. However that isn’t technically what the consumer is buying.
Instead, the cannabis product is simply a “gift” that is included with the purchase of another item on the website. This might be a sweatshirt, a t-shirt, or even something as small as a sticker. The price of the sticker may be around $40, which conveniently is the same price as an eighth of cannabis.
Within a couple hours, a delivery driver will be at the door with the sticker and the included gift, and bam you just “bought” legal cannabis in New Jersey. But just like D.C.’s grey market, the grey market in New Jersey is completely unregulated.
Although a legal cannabis company has to follow strict regulations on manufacturing and packaging, an unregulated market like that which is blooming in New Jersey has no such restrictions. So while regulators may think they are making progress by banning various forms of edible cannabis products, these new rules will be all but ignored by those operating in the grey market already.
In other words, the new regulations can’t possibly have any sort of impact until there is an actual legal industry to enforce them. As regulators take their time getting the legal cannabis industry up and operational in New Jersey, the grey market will continue to thrive only making it more complicated to get legitimate businesses licensed and running.
If you are interested in learning more about the New Jersey cannabis industry, need assistance with licensing, planning and implementation of your business plan, Greener Consulting Group can help you stay on top of the latest regulatory changes, fees and best practices for getting ahead of the competition when the industry takes off.