Garden State Reefer Madness: What Could Legalized Marijuana Do For NJ?

When it comes to political action, activism is essential. Science is helpful. But it’s often money that speaks the loudest, for better or for worse. While it’s easy to get cynical when you hear something like that, it some situations, it works to your benefit. Such is one case with the legalization movement for marijuana. Not everyone will necessarily need medicinal marijuana or want to use recreational marijuana, but the business benefits can be beneficial for everyone.

Enter New Jersey, a state with:

  • 820,303 small businesses
  • 21 Fortune 500 companies
  • A ranking of #2 in education nationwide
  • $575,331 million GDP

An educated and business-friendly populace sounds like a dream for any new market. This is why the election of Phil Murphy as governor, a candidate who made legalization a major part of his platform, was so exciting for marijuana advocates. With the stage set for legalization, we need to ask the question as to what legalization could mean for the Garden State.

nj marijuana legalization

Marijuana’s Political Status in New Jersey

This topic is pretty timely, considering that new legislation was introduced to legalize recreational marijuana and expand the medical cannabis program earlier this month. Murphy is also preparing for the idea economically, with his fiscal 2019 budget banking on $60 million in revenues. The legislation would also allow for people 21 and over to possess, buy, use, or transport an ounce or less of marijuana. Towns would retain the right to create their own ordinances regarding sales. In addition, any health-care practitioner permitted to prescribe controlled substances would be allowed to write prescriptions.

For the time being, there is already some pushback, even though the state legislature is dominated by Democrats at the moment. This includes concerns about public safety and some politicians favoring decriminalization before legalization. However, as we can see from other states, the economic benefits are difficult to ignore.

An East Coast Cannabis Boom?

Many people like to use Colorado as a “ground zero” example of the potential of marijuana, and it’s easy to see why, with $1.5 billion in sales last year. Your first instinct may be thinking of dispensaries, but the marijuana business is far larger than that, and some of the business potential may surprise you.

As many New Jersey natives will tell you, being so close to the Philadelphia and New York areas has its pros and cons, but economically, it is a huge benefit. Being the first of the three states to legalize marijuana would add another level onto this boon. Could “weed tourism” be a new industry for New Jersey? Possibly.

To continue the conversation, I want to add a recent anecdote, about a San Diego Girl Scout who managed to sell 300 boxes of cookies in 6 hours—by setting up outside a marijuana shop. Her ingenuity made over $1,500 in a day. Jokes aside, this illustrates a very real point about the economic potential in terms of legal marijuana, in that you don’t need to participate directly in order to see a benefit. The concept of “a rising tide raising all boats” truly applies here.

For example, many investors are making bank by creating new platforms to help connect users both to each other as well as various businesses in the industry. Many companies are opening up to help dispensaries make sure they are staying in compliance with state regulations. And one can’t forget other cannabis-adjacent businesses like the gardening industry and delivery services.

cheech and chong

Marketing for a New Audience

So, let’s hypothetically say that the political barriers are surmountable, and legalization takes place soon. What can businesspeople, and those interested in starting businesses, do right now in order to take advantage of the circumstances at hand? One major thing is going to be knowing how to handle marketing. While cannabis no longer carries the negative connotations it did with a lot of different people, one needs to consider that a dispensary, for example, is a very new business for New Jersey customers. This means:

  1. Having a clear brand and vision.
  2. Making sure those don’t infringe on any existing trademarks.
  3. Being willing to educate as well as advertise on why your product is effective and safe.

Because different states have different marketing regulations for cannabis, one needs to do their homework in order to figure out what is and isn’t off-limits. The digital world is a great way to start, but strategic direct mail and print advertising in industry publications can also be very helpful.

At the moment, nothing is guaranteed, and many marijuana advocates in the Garden State find themselves irritated at the current unexpected roadblocks in Trenton. However, to put things in perspective, the state has never had a pro-marijuana governor before, a major asset for the pro-marijuana movement. As others see the benefits it is having people in other states and the states themselves, the prospect of legalization may be seen as too much to resist.

About the Author: Ryan Velez is a Health Content Specialist with and freelance writer/editor from central New Jersey, with a background in B2B journalism and health writing.  Since picking up freelancing in 2015, he’s worked with clients from different fields and across the globe to create informative and appealing content. When not writing, he’s always trying to scope out a new restaurant to visit.