It’s been 534 days since New Jersey voters passed Question 1 to legalize adult-use cannabis in the November 2020 election.

Today, April 21, 2022, New Jersey became the 14th state to officially launch commercials sales at 13 dispensaries operated by seven of the largest companies in the industry: Acreage Holdings, Ascend Wellness, Columbia Care, Curaleaf, Green Thumb Industries, TerrAscend and Verano.

Many New Jerseyans would have liked to have seen a faster rollout of the program, Gov. Phil Murphy said during a press conference Thursday morning in front of a Zen Leaf dispensary operated by Verano.

“I know there are some who expected to vote for legal cannabis on November 3, 2020, and be able to purchase it on November 4. If it only were that simple,” he said. “The overriding need was for us to make sure that we got this right the first time. It took long hours of working alongside our extraordinary legislative leaders and partners to ensure the statutory backbone for this industry was sound.”

Thursday’s launch came after numerous delays involving the application and licensing process that were loosely tied to self-imposed deadlines by the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC), including a missed Feb. 22, 2022, deadline to open dispensaries.

RELATED: New Jersey Misses Cannabis Launch; Governor Says Adult-Use Sales to Begin ‘Within Weeks’

Part of the postponement was the commission’s effort to ensure state-licensed businesses were ready to provide an adequate supply to both medical and adult-use customers.

But steam picked up April 11 when CRC officials announced at their regular meeting they were set to move forward with approving seven operators to begin selling adult-use cannabis at their existing medical dispensary locations. Three days later, Murphy announced that sales would begin April 21.

On Thursday, the governor said the state’s sales launch fulfilled one of his campaign promises. 

“I know a lot of New Jerseyans have been waiting for today, including yours truly,” he said. “This is a moment I’m incredibly proud to see us get to. Getting to today was a cornerstone promise in social and economic justice that I made nearly six years ago when I first began seeking this office.

“Getting to this moment was also the hope of the overwhelming majority of New Jerseyans who supported establishing our legal adult-use cannabis marketplace and industry in 2020. But what makes me even more proud is the way in which we got here.”

During the transition period of adding a new customer base to the cannabis retail market, Curaleaf officials stated in a press release that patient care for those under New Jersey’s medical cannabis program will remain a top priority for the company.

Curaleaf workers began serving adult-use customers at its Bellmawr dispensary on Thursday, allowing those 21 and older to purchase up to 1 ounce of cannabis per day.

“The launch of New Jersey’s adult-use marketplace is a major step forward for the cannabis industry and it is a privilege to be among the inaugural group of licensees that will mark the beginning of the state’s adult-use market,” Curaleaf CEO Joe Bayern said in the release. “Our local teams look forward to building strong relationships with new consumers while deepening our ties with the medical community. Providing top-tier medical patient care remains our main priority and we have adopted considerable safeguards to make sure they can seamlessly access products to find relief.”

Acreage, which began selling to adult-use customers at its The Botanist dispensaries in Egg Harbor Township and Williamstown (in southern New Jersey), also expressed in a press release its dedication to providing access and quality products to the state’s medical patients.

The Botanist dispensaries have served New Jersey patients for nearly five years.

“With New Jersey adult-use sales projected to reach $2.4 billion by 2026, The Botanist is well-positioned through our expanded cultivation capabilities to meet consumer demand and increase sales in the coming years,” Acreage CEO Peter Caldini said. “Our company has been committed to providing exceptional patient care since its inception, and we will continue to prioritize medical patients while providing the same level of care and expertise to our new adult-use consumers.”

Here is a list of the 13 dispensaries approved to serve adult-use customers:

Dispensary locations in North Jersey:
Apothecarium, 1865 Springfield Ave., Maplewood
Apothecarium, 55 South Main St., Phillipsburg
Ascend Wellness, 174 Route 17 North, Rochelle Park
RISE, 26-48 Bloomfield Ave., Bloomfield
RISE, 196 3rd Ave., #3C, Paterson

Dispensary locations in Central Jersey:
Zen Leaf, 117 Sprint St., Elizabeth
Zen Leaf, 3256 Brunswick Pike, Lawrence Township 

Dispensary locations in South Jersey:
The Botanist, 100 Century Drive, Egg Harbor Township
The Botanist, 2090 N Blackhorse Pike, Williamstown
The Cannabist/Columbia Care, 1692 Clements Bridge Road, Deptford – 5 p.m. open for recreational
The Cannabist/Columbia Care, 1062 North Delsea Drive, Vineland – 5 p.m. open for recreational
Curaleaf, 640 Creek Road, Bellmawr
Curaleaf, 4237 US-130 South, Edgewater Park

Adult-use cannabis customers will be able to buy up to 1 ounce of dried flower, or up to 5 grams of concentrates, resins or oils, or 10 100-milligram packages of ingestible items in a single transaction, according to a CRC press release.

“We expect 13 locations for the entire state will make for extremely busy stores,” CRC Executive Director Jeff Brown said in the release. “The dispensaries have assured us that they are ready to meet the demand without disrupting patient access, and with minimal impact on the surrounding communities, but patience will be key to a good opening day.”

Brown also said that it’s important for non-resident shoppers to remember that it is illegal to transport cannabis across state lines.

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