At long last, recreational sales have finally started in the state of New Jersey. Two years after citizens of the Garden State took to the polls and called for cannabis legalization, the first recreational cannabis dispensaries opened their doors to the public just a few weeks ago on April 21, 2022. Since then, it’s been clear that recreational cannabis sales are a hit.
Around 12,000 people purchased legal cannabis products from the state’s 12 open dispensaries on the first day alone, spending about $2 million in the process, according to the New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission. That’s a whole lot of cannabis flower, resin, wax, shatter, capsules, and tinctures. What recreational buyers in the Garden State still can’t get their hands on, however, are cannabis-infused edibles. The law doesn’t allow brownies, gummies, cookies, or any other cannabis products “resembling food.”
But why are cannabis-infused food items still off-limits in Jersey? And what exactly counts as an edible and what doesn’t?
Are edibles legal in New Jersey?
No, not at this time. Because unlike some cannabis laws around the nation, New Jersey’s statute is very clear about what forms of cannabis are allowed. Legal cannabis is broken down into two simple categories: ingestible cannabis products and inhalable cannabis products. Edibles are not currently included in the ingestible cannabis category.
Let’s dig a little deeper into each of these categories to understand why.
Inhalable cannabis products
Under the letter of New Jersey law, forms of cannabis specifically intended to be inhaled via smoke or vapor — like dried cannabis flower, concentrates, and vape cartridges — are all considered smokable products. No real curveballs or surprises here.
Ingestible cannabis products
Things get a little bit more specific when it comes to edibles. As the New Jersey state law is written currently, the only forms of non-smokable cannabis products legally available for recreational consumers are products like tablets, pills, syrups, and tinctures. That means that the THC-infused candies, beverages, and pastry-style treats that can be found in dispensaries in states like Colorado, California, and Oregon are not legal.
Why are edibles illegal in New Jersey?
The part of the legislation that outlaws products like pot brownies, cookies, and cakes from being sold in dispensaries is about as clear as it gets. It says cannabis products sold in NJ dispensaries can’t resemble “commercially manufactured or trademarked” food products or any animals, characters, fruit, and other artistic imagery. So, for now, the law does not allow for the manufacturing and selling of cannabis edibles.
Lawmakers have said they wrote this language into the legalization bill for two reasons.
First, state-level lawmakers cited concerns about minors getting their hands on THC-laced products. If kids stumble upon edibles like pot brownies and THC-rich cookies, the reasoning goes, they would be far more likely to eat those than to consume a capsule or tincture.
The second factor is the lack of testing facilities. The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission doesn’t have the capacity to test the potency and purity of commercially produced cannabis edibles while setting statewide health and safety standards.
What’s the state missing out on?
While it’s clear that the state has reasons for not allowing the sale of recreational edibles, the stats show that New Jersey is missing out on a lot of profit. In key adult-use states, sales of edibles, especially gummies and other chewy candy, have outpaced overall cannabis sales. In addition, the US market for non-alcoholic, THC-infused beverages is expected to be worth as much as $1 billion by 2025 as young people shift from binge drinking to enjoying cannabis products instead. That’s a lot of tax revenue that could be going into the state’s coffers.
Thankfully, crafty New Jersey cannabis aficionados can still whip up a batch of pot brownies in their own kitchens with flower purchased at a dispensary. That’s a good thing since they won’t be able to buy them from a dispensary for the foreseeable future.