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NJ legal weed: Edibles like brownies, cookies banned by CRC

Oct 21, 2023

Legal weed consumers will be barred from purchasing pot brownies, cookies, candies or any other marijuana-infused edibles "resembling food," under the rules and regulations adopted by the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission.

The move, long on the radar of industry watchers, is a blow to customers and businesses that had hoped to jump headfirst into an increasingly popular aspect of the marijuana trade.

An official summary of the CRC rules notes that "edible products resembling food are prohibited" from sale in any retail cannabis business in the state, with cookies and brownies specifically mentioned.

"Ingestible forms ... shall only include syrups, pills, tablets, capsules, and chewable forms," the CRC regulations state. The panel approved the measure in a meeting Thursday.

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Edibles have become increasingly popular among cannabis consumers in states with recreational markets, at times growing even faster than the cannabis industry itself.

CRC Executive Director Jeff Brown said Monday that some "gummies" would be permitted under the regulations, like the soft lozenges already available at some medical marijuana dispensaries.

But trying to regulate how edibles manufactured in a "kitchen environment," like baked goods, require additional regulations the commission didn't have time to detail before its Aug. 22 deadline to adopt an initial set of rules and regulations, under the New Jersey legal weed laws.

"That's not to say we won't in the future but, as of right now, we're starting out with just the addition of some things like concentrates," Brown said. "This is just the first cut."

While Brown declined to provide a timeline on when additional regulations over food-related edibles would be issued, he said the CRC could issue waivers to manufacturers in the meantime if it's not "prohibitive to businesses or inconsistent with our goals to act."

While many entrepreneurs expected the CRC to institute strict rules on labeling and packaging of edible products to ensure they don't attract children, many were planning for edibles to become a booming part of the New Jersey cannabis market from the get-go.

"The more choices the consumers have, the better," said Evan Nison, first vice chair of the board of directors for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the country's longest-running marijuana legalization advocacy group. "Other states have figured out ways to do that with child-resistant packaging and proper labeling."

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According to the cannabis analytics firm Headset, more than $1.23 billion of recreational and medical marijuana edibles were sold in seven states in 2020, a 60% uptick in sales that outpaced the rest of the cannabis industry.

In Michigan, a legal weed state close to New Jersey in terms of population and demographics, edibles made up abut 17% of all cannabis sales, according to Headset. Tinctures, an extract of weed, and capsules — which would be allowed in New Jersey, under the CRC rules — accounted for just 0.8% of all sales combined.

"Edibles are a popular category for consumers that may not want to smoke, vape or put something in their lungs — or their landlords don't allow them to smoke or vape," Nison said. "They're certainly an important category for consumers, and they're capable of making choices for themselves."

If the CRC rules stand, New Jersey would be the only legal weed state to specifically ban such edible forms of marijuana.

Restrictions on edibles, however, are not uncommon: More and more states — including New Jersey — have passed laws or regulations ensuring that edible forms of marijuana aren't given eye-catching shapes, such as fruit snacks.

And nearly every state has laws in place to ensure that edibles are sold in child-proof bags with an advertised THC potency embossed on the actual food product.

Those restrictions were always expected in New Jersey. In a 2019 interview with the Asbury Park Press, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said such measures would help to win over reluctant lawmakers.

"You have to make it unattractive to children," Sweeney said at the time.

Mike Davis has spent the last decade covering New Jersey local news, marijuana legalization, transportation and basically whatever else is going on at any given moment. Contact him at [email protected] or @byMikeDavis on Twitter.

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