For customers of the Apothecarium dispensary, one of 13 medicinal cannabis stores in New Jersey, 4/20, the unofficial celebration of all things marijuana, arrived a day late.
Thusday, 21 In April, recreational cannabis use was legalized throughout New Jersey, allowing anyone 21 or older to legally purchase marijuana.
At Apothecarium, nestled between a smoothie bar and a cafe in Maplewood, hundreds of people arrived to legally buy weed for the first time ever in New Jersey, a hop and a hop – or a bridge or a tunnel – from New York.
Arriving in groups or solo, young and old alike came out to celebrate what many described as a long overdue step in making marijuana more accessible.
“Today is absolutely historic,” said Apothecarium employee Jason Sommers, 41. who worked as security for the first day of the dispensary serving recreational customers.
“Cannabis addicts have been waiting for this day for a very long time and now that it’s here. It’s beautiful,” Sommers added, wearing a plain black T-shirt and enthusiastically greeting customers as they arrived. .
Maplewood police stood outside the dispensary, helping direct traffic and indicating parking to eager shoppers. Under sunny skies, customers were greeted by uniformed dispensary workers who handed out tote bags, lighters, free T-shirts and other goodies.
“[This is] probably one of the most exciting days for all of our staff and all of our customers,” said Chantelle Elsner, senior vice president of retail at TerrAscend, the company that owns Apothecarium, trying to speak above the noise. customers enthusiastically entering the dispensary. for the first time.
After checking in online, those waiting to buy could either stroll through businesses in the area or wait in a tent parking lot in front of the dispensary.
Once inside, the dispensary was segregated for recreational shoppers versus typical Apothecarium medicinal patients.
Some walked around, checking out the glass display cases displaying strains of “grease monkey”, a hybrid mix, “strawnana”, a relaxing indica bud and other cannabis products.
Cannabis oil, pre-rolled joints and buds were available to Apothecarium’s first recreational use customers, with edible availability coming soon.
“It’s like going to a candy store for the first time. You look around and you see,” said student Princeton Goode, 36, who was waiting in the parking lot with his girlfriend and friend.
William Walker, 67, and his wife Debra came from the area to buy recreationally hoping the cannabis might relieve some of their chronic pain, especially in Walker’s knees and eyes.
“If it relieves a little, it’s good. If not, at least I tried,” Walker said as his wife nodded.
Walker, who is happy with New Jersey’s legalization, joked that the only downside was a possible increase in theft “beyond the fact that kids can steal from you if they think you have it.”
Weed novices and enthusiasts shared their mutual excitement over the new law, the product of a decade-long struggle by New Jersey cannabis advocates to catch up with many other US states and end its criminalization.
New Jersey voters first approved the legalization of cannabis in a 2020 referendum. A year later, state lawmakers, led by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, legalized recreational use and buying it, processing dispensary applications and drafting regulations for the emerging industry.
At least 18 other states and Washington DC have now legalized recreational marijuana, with a total of 37 states allowing the purchase of medical marijuana.
Far fewer are on the east coast and New Jersey is among the first to launch recreational sales. New York, where recreational cannabis was legalized last year, has yet to launch a licensed recreational market.
“So many people have been ostracized for using cannabis across the country, but it’s finally amazing to see New Jersey do something legal about it,” said Julio Morales-Carrera, 28.
Cannabis sales also inject additional revenue into state coffers, via sales taxes. Murphy in 2019 predicted recreational cannabis sales would add $60 million in revenue to the state.
New Jersey officials say taxes on marijuana sales will be allocated to black and brown communities who have been disproportionately affected by decades of marijuana criminalization.
“If they use the money properly, it could help with whatever the state needs, the municipality needs,” said Roberto Severini, a 29-year-old customer and self-proclaimed weed enthusiast.
For many, especially black cannabis consumers, one of the main advantages of now being able to buy from a dispensary is the possibility of not facing persecution or stigma for buying cannabis, because Black people are four times more likely to be arrested under the laws of possession of marijuana as white persons.
“It’s a huge difference to go out and be able to walk into a store and not feel like you’re doing something wrong. It’s like the most important thing for me,” said Chris, 40, a professional of the sale, who preferred not to disclose his last name.
New Jersey resident Kinley Louis, who was waiting with his co-worker and chatting with other avid cannabis buyers, agreed to feel less anxious about buying from the dispensary.
“You no longer have to worry about being persecuted for flowers and on top of that you no longer have to worry about going to ‘sketch places’ to try and buy some,” said Louis, referring to cannabis buds.
Even with the increased cost of marijuana at a dispensary compared to buying it on the street, most noted it was worth it given the better quality, ease of access, and knowing exactly what they got.
“Maybe the price is a bit different, but the quality is probably a lot better too,” said Jessica Jones, 26, who added, “It’s a different, smoother experience.”
Jonathan Ortiz, a cancer survivor, said he would apply to work at the dispensary.
“[It’s about] know all the products, what’s inside the products, the option of different products and the safety of all this. At least you know who to go to if you have a problem,” he said.
By mid-afternoon, as the waves of early morning shoppers had thinned, people’s enthusiasm was palpable. Those queuing for the chance to buy bonded with people who had managed to get their wares.
A man wearing a red hoodie danced alone to Silk Sonic’s Smokin Out the Window in the dispensary parking lot before joining his friends as they waited for a text message confirming they could enter the dispensary.
Laughter and cheers filled the air, with those driving near the dispensary line asking for parking information so they too could shop.
“It’s a beautiful thing. It’s really beautiful,” Goode said.