TRENTON - New Jersey medical marijuana patients and legal weed customers would be permitted to purchase a wider array of edibles, including baked goods and beverages, under regulations proposed on Friday. The state's current cannabis regulations specifically prohibit "edible products resembling food," one of the few legal weed markets in the country with such an express prohibition, a holdover from the political battles during the earliest days of the state's medical marijuana program. Under those regulations, cannabis manufacturers are only permitted to produce syrups, pills, tablets, capsules and chewables. The new regulations would expand the type of products allowed, including shelf-stable products such as chocolates, baked goods, butters and beverages.
While the regulations won't be adopted until December, the commission passed waivers that allow manufacturers to apply for approval to make such products in the meantime. "These waivers will allow for some immediate expansion of edible products in both the medicinal market, which is critical, as well as the adult-use market," Cannabis Regulatory Commission Executive Director Jeff Brown said.
"These will enable us to start approving some products. We can start taking submissions next week." More:NJ legal weed: Dispensaries barred from selling edibles 'resembling food' — for now The difference in options between New Jersey and other states is stark. As of Friday, the online store for Zen Leaf's dispensary in Neptune offered a rainbow of different types of flavors and brands, but — besides a few squeezable syrups for drinks and a pack of swallowable pills — the vast majority were the same kind of chewy, gummy-like candy — often referred to as a "soft lozenge." But at a Zen Leaf dispensary in Plymouth, Massachusetts, there was a much wider array of options beyond the gummies, syrups and pills: A five-pack of weed brownies.
A 12-ounce can of lemon-lime seltzer. Espresso caramels. A 20-pack of dark chocolates with sea salt — and 100 milligrams of THC. Industry experts have long seen edibles as one of the cannabis industry's fastest-growing markets. When asked to identify their most frequently used cannabis product, 17% of consumers picked edibles — and 22% said it was their favorite type of product, according to cannabis market research firm New Frontier Data.
The items are more popular among older consumers, too: While only 15% of customers between 18 and 34 years old said edibles as their most frequently purchased product, they're at the top of the list for 22% of consumers between 35 and 54 years old and 27% of customers over 55 years old. According to cannabis industry analysis firm Headset, edibles accounted for nearly 12% of all cannabis sales in 11 states last year, nearly $1.6 billion – up from about $1.4 billion and $1.1 billion in 2020. Nearly three-quarters of all sales were gummies, though their market share slightly dipped from 2021 to 2022, while chocolates and caramels and other chews slightly grew. "This is exactly what the market needs to go forward," Cannabis Regulatory Commission Vice Chair Sam Delgado said. Edibles have always been restricted in New Jersey, even going back to the birth of the medical marijuana program.
Former Gov. Chris Christie line-item vetoed the 2009 bill that established the program so that only minors were eligible for medical marijuana — a small enough market that the few licensed manufacturers went years without even creating or offering a single product. More:NJ marijuana legalization: Medical marijuana sent New Jersey family to Colorado Without edible options, many patients have become self-taught cooks, extracting oil from raw marijuana in their kitchens and using it to infuse baked goods with cannabis or consuming it orally. The new regulations and waivers implement many standards common in the food processing industry.
All products will have a nutrition label and expiration date, and employees involved in the manufacturing must undergo food safety training. Cannabis edibles can't contain any alcohol, tobacco or nicotine, and keep the existing 10-milligram cap on THC per dose, with a new 5-milligram dose for beverages. "Even with these waivers, all products need to be in child-resistant packaging with warning labels," Brown said.
"All the safety provisions are well in place to protect anyone from getting into these products that shouldn't otherwise do so." Mike Davis has spent the last decade covering New Jersey local news, marijuana legalization, transportation and a little bit of everything else. He's won a few awards that make his parents very proud.
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