NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission Faces Harsh Questioning during Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing

May 16, 2022

On Thursday, May 12, 2022, the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing that primarily scrutinized and raised concerns about the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission's (CRC's) rollout of legal marijuana in the state. The hearing, which lasted five hours, focused primarily on the CRC's pace in granting cannabis licenses, the issue of keeping medical cannabis affordable, confusion regarding workplace rules on marijuana use by employees, and limited available data.

The Regulatory Commission had held a meeting on March 24, 2022, during which it was expected to issue licenses for recreational cannabis sales to medical marijuana dispensaries, but subsequently declined to do so. Since then, the CRC has granted some such licenses, but only after numerous delays. Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) was quoted on nj.com saying in his opening remarks during the hearing, "I'm confident that if we did not start this process, the adult weed market would still not be open in New Jersey."

A number of groups presented testimony during the hearing, commenting on the CRC's rollout of the adult recreational marijuana market, and looking to ensure the social equity component of legalized recreational marijuana in New Jersey. Representatives from banking and cannabis trade groups highlighted the difficulties of participating in such an industry that has been legalized on the state level, but that is still illegal federally.

Senator Troy Singleton (D-Burlington) presented a question regarding recreational marijuana's effect on medical cannabis prices saying, "A lot of my constituents are telling me that they are being priced out of the medicinal cannabis market." Jeff Brown, Executive Director of the CRC, responded that prices have dropped slightly, even with the illicit market offering marijuana at essentially half the cost of that in the legal market.

Concerns were also raised regarding employees' use of marijuana and employers' authority over employees' use. Currently, employers can still conduct random and pre-employment drug tests for marijuana and can still prohibit marijuana use at work; however, they cannot fire, discipline, or refuse to hire someone solely because they test positive for marijuana. Employers must have certified Workplace Impairment Recognition Experts witness employees' impaired behavior, as well as a positive drug test indicating the presence of marijuana in the individual's system to enforce rules regarding impairment in the workplace. In addition to these restrictive standards, a current court case involving impairment experts and the CRC's lack of certification standards for them has many concerned about realistic enforcement.

Ray Cantor, Vice President of Government Relations for the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA), was quoted on nj.com as having said during the hearing, "This can't continue . . . We need standards for the business community. They are still operating in the dark over this issue."

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