New Jersey voters called for marijuana legalization in 2020, and now the government officially signed off on the start of legal recreational cannabis sales for adults.
You are now able to buy cannabis flower, concentrate, ingestible forms of cannabis that aren’t food, and drops or syrups.
But, you can’t buy edibles — specifically, any cannabis product “resembling food,” according to New Jersey state law.
According to Chris Goldstein, a New Jersey-based cannabis advocate for NORML, don’t expect pot brownies in the first months of legal weed sales in the state. “Are you gonna be able to get an awesome brownie? No. Are you gonna be able to get some sort of non-smokeable cannabis that you could eat? There’ll be something,” he said.
Traditionally, a cannabis edible (or “edible”) is a food item that contains cannabis in some form. Think “pot brownie” or “space cake.”
In New Jersey, lawmakers differentiate between cannabis products as:
Ingestible cannabis products: forms of cannabis that can be taken by mouth and are absorbed through the body’s digestive system. This includes tablets, pills, syrups, tinctures (and edibles, if they become legal).
Inhalable cannabis products: forms of cannabis that are intended to be inhaled through smoke or vapor. This includes cannabis flower, concentrate, and vaporizer cartridges.
Lawmakers have two concerns — how these products are made and how enticing they are for children.
In order to produce cannabis edibles that resemble food, like brownies, cookies, and cakes, you need a commercial kitchen that can produce these cannabis food items safely, efficiently, and pass health and safety standards. At the time of opening weed sales, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) did not have the capacity to set up a system for commercial kitchens yet.
Additionally, many lawmakers hold reservations about cannabis edibles because of their likeness to real food. This, lawmakers say, could lead to children mistaking cannabis edibles for real food and consuming it.
As the law stands now, cannabis products can’t resemble “commercially manufactured or trademarked” food products or animals, characters, fruit, and other artistic imagery. Many traditional edibles fall into these categories.
So, for now, the law does not allow for the manufacturing and selling of cannabis edibles.
Edible cannabis products have certain benefits for patients and adult consumers that inhalable cannabis can’t deliver, according to DeVaughn Ward, a senior attorney at the Marijuana Policy Project who oversees efforts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
“The reality is even though cannabis does have some medical properties when you consume it through smoking, you are still smoking something,” said Ward. “For folks who may have asthma or other medical conditions that affect their respiratory system, ingestible forms of cannabis are probably preferred to treat whatever their medical condition is.”
While you can’t yet buy edibles in New Jersey, you don’t necessarily have to smoke cannabis to enjoy the benefits. Other ingestible forms of cannabis are available, like pills, tablets, and capsules.
It’s a possibility. Since New Jersey lawmakers didn’t include edibles in legalization, they will need to pass new laws to make it happen. So, it’ll likely be over a year before this change happens.
The CRC oversees the state’s cannabis laws and legal operations. In a February commission meeting, its executive director Jeff Brown said that while commercial kitchens for making cannabis edibles are still a limitation, “Our goal is to continue to work to offer more products to patients.”
Ward and Goldstein both agree that cannabis edibles will reach adult consumers and patients in the future.
“I think as the market matures, patients and consumers are not just gonna want flower, they’re gonna want the full host of cannabis offerings,” said Ward. “The market forces will certainly evolve to hopefully reach lawmakers and it’ll create that change in the law, so I can see it on the horizon.”