The New Jersey Health Department is all set to issue over 100 new licenses to cannabis cultivators, manufacturers and retailers, under the state’s medical marijuana program. Reportedly, up to 38 new licenses have been reserved for cannabis Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs) in both the central and northern region of the states, while 32 licenses would go to operators in the state’s southern region.
Notably, the number of licenses for each region was determined by two factos viz. the population density and the health department’s assessment of patient requirements.
“The additional ATCs are necessary to meet the growing Medical Marijuana patient base and the projected future expansion as outlined in the Department’s Biennial Report,” the official notice reads.
Issues faced under the present system
Currently, the state has six cannabis ATCs; six more were selected last year, though they are yet to receive their respective licenses.
The increasing number of patients has led to long queues at dispensaries, product shortages and high prices.
“We are at a point where patients just can’t wait any longer for easily accessible, affordable therapy. This request for applications will allow businesses to increase medical products in our state,” said Dr. Shereef Elnahal, New Jersey Health Commissioner.
The previous licenses mostly went to ‘big players’; however, with three sizes of allowed cultivation endorsements (5,000 square feet, 20,000 square feet and 30,000 square feet) this time, the health department is looking to attract small and medium-sized businesses too.
Notably, this will mark the first time the health department will issue separate licenses for cultivators, manufacturers, and retailers. All of the present licensees are vertically integrated businesses, which produce and dispense their own products.
The increasing patient count
The number of patients that qualify under the state’s medical marijuana program has surged over the last 2 years as the state added 5 debilitating diseases in 2018 and another condition (opioid use disorder) this year. Since these additions, the program has seen 30,000 new patients enrolling, bringing the total count to nearly 47,500 as of June 2019.
The NJ Department of Health has begun accepting applications and will continue to do so until August 15, the deadline.