In New Jersey, anyone 21-years-old and older can walk into a dispensary and purchase cannabis.
The first adult-use cannabis sales kicked off in the Garden State on April 21, missing the unofficial cannabis holiday 4/20 by just one day. Regardless, enthusiastic New Jerseyans queued up outside of Apothecarium in Maplewood, N.J., and Rise in nearby Bloomfield, to participate in history.
"This is something that people have been fighting for to just be legalized. And I just feel like this is something that could help a lot of people out there, including myself," said Apothecarium customer Matthew Normandia. "This is a day that I honestly prayed for."
"It's kind of surreal. Never thought this day would come, but it's here and I'm here," said Ezell Roberts.
On that first day, sales totaled just under $2 million, according to NJ.com, and 86 percent of it came from recreational purchases, according to cannabis e-commerce platform Jane Technologies. Over the course of the first full month, adult-use cannabis sales exceeded $24 million, according to New Jersey's Cannabis Regulatory Commission. Jane Technologies reported that flower was the most popular form factor sold, accounting for about 49 percent of first month sales.
New Jersey legalization generated considerable optimism in the industry due to its proximity to neighboring New York and its robust population of close to nine million. New Jersey's Cannabis Regulatory Commission estimates 12 percent of adults — or about 836,000 people — will participate in the recreational market. That doesn't even include an estimated 788,000 so-called "tourism consumers," consumers from other states, like New York, who may risk federal law to purchase cannabis in New Jersey — at least until sales kick off there.
"It's 20 million people in New York and nine million people in New Jersey and they're all going to buy and consume a ton of cannabis and create a ton of state tax revenue," said Ben Kovler, CEO and chairman of Rise parent company Green Thumb Industries.
Based on per capita spending in other markets, data analytics firm Headset anticipates the total annual market in New Jersey could range between $1.3 billion and $2.9 billion.
When New Jersey voters moved to legalize adult-use cannabis sales in November 2020, experts anticipated it would kick off a domino effect of movement toward legalization across the Northeastern United States — and those predictions proved true. In 2021, New York and Connecticut legalized cannabis. Rhode Island followed suit in late May this year. adult-use cannabis has been legal in Massachusetts since 2016. It may have been delayed by West Coast standards, but experts have anticipated legalization across the Northeast transforming the cannabis industry.
"It's going to show the capital markets how real this is. And it's going to lead the listings for the companies as this becomes very credential-ized and very normalized," Green Thumb Industries' Kovler said.