Having already doubled the number of patients in the medical marijuana program, the Murphy administration Monday selected the six businesses that will double the number of dispensaries in the state to 12, so long as their applications are approved and they get municipal permission.

Applications were selected by the Department of Health for dispensaries in Atlantic City, Elizabeth, Ewing, Paterson, Phillipsburg and Vineland. They would existing sites in Bellmawr, Cranbury, Egg Harbor, Montclair, Secaucus and Woodbridge.

Ken Wolski, executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey, said the host communities benefit from employment opportunities and property tax revenues but that the best part will be convenience and better supply for the program’s 38,000 patients.

“Many of the alternative treatment centers are running out of strains, and they have not top-quality buds that are available to patients, unfortunately, even though patients are paying top-dollar,” Wolski said.

“New Jersey still has the most expensive medical marijuana in the country,” he said. “With this added competition, we hope that this will start to bring the prices down for patients.”

There were 146 applications for the six licenses – so many that the state wasn’t able to make its selections by its original goal of November. Those chosen must now pass background checks and clear other hurdles before they can open.

A timeline for when the new facilities will open won’t be set until early next year.

“It’s probably going to take about a year or so before these alternative treatment centers get up and running and are able to actually have product available for patients who need it,” Wolski said.

Selected applicants were intentionally distributed around the state, with two apiece in North, Central and South Jersey.

The winning applications weren’t immediately available but will be posted online next year. All 146 applications will eventually be posted for public review.

“Six very strong applicants were selected, including minority-owned and women-owned businesses,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal

“We will meet with them early next year to refine their timetable for growing product and opening their doors,” Elnahal said. “We are committed to an equitable expansion of supply to meet growing patient demand, and these new locations will reach patients that currently have to travel longer distances to obtain the therapy.”

The selected applicants are:

  • NETA NJ, LLC – Phillipsburg
  • GTI New Jersey, LLC – Paterson
  • Verano NJ LLC – Elizabeth (Dispensary), Rahway (Cultivation Site)
  • Justice Grown – Ewing
  • MPX New Jersey – Atlantic City (Dispensary), Galloway (Cultivation)
  • Columbia Care New Jersey – Vineland

The announcement was made on the day that had been, at one point, the target date for the state Legislature to vote to legalize recreational marijuana. That vote didn’t happen, however, as lawmakers and Gov. Phil Murphy haven’t agreed on a regulatory structure or tax rate.

Wolski said the real solution is to legalize marijuana for use by adults.

“You’re going to change marijuana from what’s more like a prescription drug now where you have to go back and see the doctor every couple of months to an over-the-counter drug any adult can go into a store and purchase like aspirin,” he said.

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