New Jersey Is Relaxing Restrictions On Marijuana-Infused Foods And Drinks

Commissioners on Friday also approved big fines for two cannabis companies that were found to be violating patient access and labor laws.

By Sophie Nieto-Munoz, New Jersey Monitor

Weed brownies and THC-infused drinks are coming to dispensaries across New Jersey after the state’s cannabis regulators voted to relax restrictions on edibles Friday, nearly a year and a half after legal recreational marijuana sales started in New Jersey.

When the Cannabis Regulatory Commission first drafted rules in August 2021, it opted not to allow the sale of edibles that resemble food, citing difficulties in regulating kitchen environments. At that time, commissioners approved the sale of only non-perishable edibles, like lozenges and gummies.

But the commission at its Friday meeting proposed new rules that would allow for an expanded group of edibles to be sold in both the recreational and medical markets.

The rules would require products to be made uniformly, staff to receive food safety training, and packages to have nutrition labels and expiration dates.

Tomorrow’s public meeting has agenda items to expand the types of edible cannabis products, adjust the Social Equity Excise Fee, and more. The meeting is back in Trenton. Join us in person or watch live on YouTube. Find meeting link & comment form here: https://t.co/WB8V6ESsND.

— New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (@NewJerseyCRC) September 7, 2023

Edibles are rising in popularity nationally as purchases of flower drop, according to New Frontier Data. Typically, people bought flower on the illegal market since its quality can be weighed through smell and look, while edibles were a riskier purchase. Now, with increased testing and improved labeling in regulated stores, edibles account for nearly a quarter of cannabis purchases nationwide.

And with more people buying edibles, reports of accidental ingestions from children are also increasing, prompting concerns from critics. Through September 6, more than 140 children ages 1 to 12 were reported to have ingested marijuana this year, according to the New Jersey Poison Control. The center urges people to keep their edibles out of the reach of children and in child-resistant containers.

Finalization of the new rules could take up to six months, so the commission Friday waived some requirements to allow regulators to begin approving new products as soon as this week, said Jeff Brown, the commission’s executive director.

The proposed rule was unanimously approved for both medical and recreational dispensaries with almost no discussion from the board. It now undergoes a 60-day public comment period.

Commissioners on Friday also approved big fines for two cannabis companies that were found to be violating patient access and labor laws.

Patients complained that Terrascend workers redirected medical marijuana users to buy from the recreational menu, a penalty that carries a fine of up to $5,000 per violation. The company received five infractions, and Brown noted they also received another violation that wasn’t before the agency Friday, but will be in the future.

Commission Chair Dianna Houenou  said state statute allows the agency to impose a heavier fine if they believe it’s appropriate. She proposed a $100,000 fine, stressing the amount should “reflect the serious nature that the board considers prioritizing patients.”

Vice Chair Sam Delgado called the violation amount “extremely shocking,” “irresponsible” and “onerous.” He said he’s concerned that “people will lose their jobs.”

The $100,000 fine was approved by a vote of 3 to 1, with Delgado voting “absolutely not.”

Columbia Care was hit with a $50,000 fine for a 13-day lapse in its labor peace agreement, a pact the company makes to be neutral if its workers want to unionize.

“We have to rightfully place a strong emphasis on labor, and I think people need to get that here, if they want to do business in New Jersey, we’re serious about it,” Commissioner Krisa Nash said.

The commission voted 3-1 to impose the fine, with Delgado voting no.

This story was first published by New Jersey Monitor.

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Photo courtesy of Flickr/jeffreyw.

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