The home cultivation of cannabis is illegal in Essex County. No individual may cultivate cannabis at home for recreational or medical purposes in the county. Anyone caught cultivating up to 10 marijuana plants at home will be charged with a felony offense punishable with a maximum $25,000 fine and up to five years in prison.
Even though residents are prohibited from cultivating cannabis at home under the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (CREAMMA), commercial cannabis establishments that have acquired the relevant licenses are permitted to cultivate cannabis for recreational and medical purposes. However, Section 31b of CREAMMA authorizes New Jersey municipalities to adopt regulations regulating the establishment of cannabis businesses within their jurisdictions. The Town of Cedar Grove in New Jersey prohibits the establishment of cannabis cultivation businesses within its jurisdiction through the enactment of Ordinance #21-870.
The manufacturing of recreational and medicinal cannabis products is legal in Essex County; nonetheless, municipalities enact their own cannabis rules and regulations in accordance with the provisions of the CREAMMA. Pursuant to this provision, many Essex County municipalities have prohibited cannabis manufacturing within their borders. For instance, the Township of South Orange Village in Essex County prohibits the manufacturing of cannabis within its borders.
According to the CREAMMA, recreational cannabis sale is authorized in Essex County. However, many Essex County municipalities have banned the operation of adult-use cannabis businesses in their jurisdictions. For example, recreational cannabis establishments are prohibited in the Town of West Caldwell through Ordinance No. 1849. While the retail selling of adult-use cannabis is banned in certain Essex County cities and towns, the retail sale of medical cannabis is permitted in most jurisdictions.
Pursuant to the CREAMMA, no cannabis retail premises may be established in or on any premises where a grocery store, indoor food market, delicatessen, or any business selling alcoholic drinks is situated. Cannabis products may not be sold to anyone under the age of 21 in recreational cannabis establishments.
Essex County has not enacted any regulation prohibiting the delivery of cannabis as permitted under the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act. However, the delivery of adult-use cannabis is not allowed in many Essex County locations. The Town of West Caldwell prohibits cannabis delivery, while the Town of Maplewood permits the delivery of cannabis products as enacted through Ordinance #3048-21.
The medical marijuana card issued in Essex County identifies the person named on the card as a patient enrolled under the New Jersey Medicinal Cannabis Program (NJMCP) who is entitled to receive up to 3 oz. of medicinal cannabis from approved Alternative Treatment Centers (ATC) every 30 days.
To obtain a medical marijuana card in Essex County, you must be aged 18 or older, have proof of residency in Essex County or other New Jersey municipality, and obtain a medical cannabis registry ID and reference number from a physician certified by the state to recommend medical marijuana. You must provide a passport-style picture as well as a valid New Jersey State-issued identification or a recent utility bill issued within the last 90 days as proof of residence.
To receive a valid registration ID and reference number from an approved physician, state law requires a physician-patient relationship between the applicant and the physician. Also, the physician must be enrolled in the New Jersey medical cannabis program. You may locate a medical cannabis program participating practitioner by searching the state-approved list of practitioners or using the find a provider tool on the medical cannabis program website. During your meeting with the physician, the healthcare practitioner will conduct appropriate tests and review your medical history to determine whether you have one or more of the authorized debilitating medical conditions for cannabis therapy. The approved debilitating medical conditions for medical marijuana in New Jersey are:
After confirming your eligibility for medicinal marijuana, the physician will provide you with a state medical marijuana patient registry ID and reference number. Subsequently, you may complete the application online using the NJMCP registration page. The New Jersey Department of Health will provide you with clearance information via email within 30 days. If your application is approved, you will be required to pay a $100 registration fee. If you receive any kind of assistance, such as SSD, SSI, Medicaid, SNAP, or are a military veteran, you may be eligible for an $80 fee reduction. After paying the application fee, the Department of Health will send the MMJ card to you within 10 business days. The MMJ card is valid for two years, but you must renew it every year by obtaining re-certification for medical cannabis from a qualified physician.
You may designate up to two caregivers while applying for an MMJ card. Assigned caregivers must be at least 18 years old and live in New Jersey. Caregivers will also be required to submit fingerprints for background checks. Caregivers must present current photographs, New Jersey State-issued IDs, and registration fees during their applications.
With recreational cannabis sales only commencing in New Jersey in April 2022, it is too soon to measure the economic impact of adult-use marijuana legalization on the economies of the state and county. However, according to an independent study, recreational cannabis sales in New Jersey are expected to exceed $2 billion before 2026. Also, according to the analysis, medical marijuana sales are likely to peak in 2023 before starting to decline as some users substitute medical cannabis for recreational cannabis.
As recreational cannabis sales in New Jersey are only commencing in the second quarter of 2022, the impact of cannabis legalization on crime rates in Essex County can currently only be analyzed in terms of the impact of medicinal cannabis legalization. According to an independent study, the number of cannabis-related arrests among adults in New Jersey varied by a small percentage between 2010 and 2015. During that time, the number of cannabis-related arrests among adults in New Jersey grew from 21,884 in 2010 to 24,118 in 2015. In 2016, the number was 32,066; in 2017, it was 34,536. By 2021, the number of arrests for cannabis-related offenses had dropped to about 31,000. Overall, the number of arrests for cannabis-related crimes jumped by nearly 40% between 2010 and 2019.
According to the FBI UCR program, DUI arrest rates in New Jersey did not drop considerably between 2010 and 2019, but declined in 2020, when DUI arrests plummeted by more than 30% from the previous year. New Jersey reported 23,271, 21,738, 20,609, and 21,386 DUI arrests in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. In 2020, the DUI arrest numbers in New Jersey fell to 14,403.