Since April, those over 21 have been permitted to purchase marijuana from regulated dispensaries in New Jersey. However, they are not permitted to consume it in public, unlike bar and restaurant clients who can order and sip cocktails.
The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission has prepared guidelines that will allow the creation of “consumption rooms” – lounge-like settings adjacent to pot-selling dispensaries — this year, so cannabis customers may anticipate rule changes.
Tuesday, the commission published the proposed licencing and operational guidelines for lounges in the New Jersey Register, a biweekly publication containing proposed and approved state regulations.
The regulations would apply to dispensaries selling marijuana for recreational use. There are 21 recreational marijuana dispensaries in the state, while nine serve solely patients registered with the state’s medical programme.
There are fundamental distinctions between how restaurants and bars offering alcohol operate. People who operate or use consumption areas should anticipate adhering to several restrictions.
The most controversial provision is the prohibition on dispensaries selling any type of food or beverage. According to the idea, patrons may bring their own snacks and even have meals delivered to the lounge. Alcoholic beverages and cigarette products are also prohibited.
Jennifer Cabrera, counsel with the multi-state cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg, stated that the state legislature’s decision to prohibit the sale of meals, coffee, and muffins in consumption lounges represents a significant missed economic opportunity.
“It’s a ridiculous restriction,” remarked Cabrera.
As New York prepares to launch its legal cannabis market, she underlined that the state does not prohibit coffee shops and other dining venues from cooperating with consumption lounges. In New York, “the hospitality sector is all about on-site consumption,” she noted.
Because the food ban was included into the law legalising marijuana, according to Cabrera, the commission is powerless to alter it. She stated that the commission “done the best it could” for customers by permitting them to order food or bring their own.
“If the rules were altered so that a dispensary could have a restaurant next to it, I believe they would do phenomenal business. This is what we will see in New York over the river,” she remarked. These could be pleasant, friendly locations to use cannabis locally.
The lounge’s owners must obtain clearance from both the state commission and the local governing body, which must approve a separate ordinance, prior to its opening. According to the proposal, local officials will have the authority to determine if the proposed lounge is a “acceptable minimum distance” from schools, child care facilities, playgrounds, and places of worship.
According to the idea, municipal officials must deny or grant the licence within 28 days of receiving the application.
Jersey City and Atlantic City have already adopted a policy permitting a consumption lounge in an unopened retail store.
Employees of the dispensary and lounge will have the authority to determine how much cannabis is sold and consumed in the lounge and will be taught to identify instances of excessive use. The proposed standards state that any leftovers must be sealed in a resealable bag.
Products obtained illegally are not welcome. According to the plan, “the rules compel cannabis shops to make a good faith attempt to guarantee that customers and patients bring only licenced cannabis into cannabis consumption areas.”
The lounges may be either indoor or outdoor, but they must all be accessible via the dispensary and located in a separate area from the sales floor.
The plan states that indoor lounges must “comply with all ventilation regulations relevant to cigar lounges.” The plan stated that outdoor lounges must not be visible from the street and must be equipped with a ventilation system to prevent smoke from migrating into any interior public space or workplace.
According to Leafly, a cannabis usage and education website, ten states, including New Jersey and New York, have laws permitting communal use lounges. There are open lounges in California, Nevada, Illinois, Alaska, and Colorado, among others.
The regulations also appear to pave the way for hotels and other lodging establishments to participate in cannabis tourism. The plan states that cannabis products may be used “in guest rooms at hotels, motels, and other lodging establishments that authorise such use, smoking, vaping, and aerosolizing.”
The Smoke-Free Air Act of 2006 prohibited smoking in most indoor workplaces in New Jersey, although hotels and motels are permitted to designate 20% of their rooms for smoking guests, according to the website of the state Department of Health. In Atlantic City casinos, smoking is also permitted in specific places.
The commission’s spokesperson, Toni-Anne Blake, stated that the legalisation statute does not restrict cannabis consumption in hotels and motels.
“Hotels are privately owned and may permit consumption at their discretion. However, they should be aware of any legal or municipal limits, and they cannot sell cannabis goods,” added Blake.
The commission, which approved the proposed guidelines at its meeting in December, will receive written comments on the proposal through March 18 and may decide to amend the rules depending on public feedback. Once the final rules have been enacted, a dispensary may apply for a licence to operate in a consuming area.
Commentary on the consumption lounge rules may be sent electronically by March 18 at www.nj.gov/cannabis/resources/cannabis-laws, or by mail to Dave Tuason, Deputy Counsel, New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission, 225 East State Street, Second Floor, Trenton, NJ 08601.
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