New Jersey’s health department has plenty of options to assess as it awards licenses for six new medicinal marijuana operators, as 146 applications from 106 organizations were submitted by the Aug. 31 deadline.

“That’s a shocking number,” said Scott Rudder, president of the New Jersey Cannabusiness Association. “I’ve got to tell you, that number is very high. It’s a very exciting time here in New Jersey.”

There are six “alternative treatment centers” currently in Egg Harbor, Montclair, Woodbridge, Cranbury, Secaucus and Bellmawr. Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration intends to approve six more by Nov. 1 – two each in northern, central and southern New Jersey.

The applicants were almost evenly divided between those regions – 50 organizations in the northern seven counties, 51 in the southern seven counties and 45 in the central region, defined as Hunterdon, Middlesex, Mercer, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset and Union counties.

Murphy said the six additional ATCs means “putting patients first and ensuring more convenient access to medical marijuana.”

Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal said the number of patients signed up for the program has surpassed 30,000 and is expected to continue growing.

“We need more alternative treatment centers to keep pace with the demand for a therapy that has been unjustly restricted for so long,” Elnahal said.

Applicants would be required to operate a dispensary as well as cultivating and manufacturing facilities. The business can be either nonprofit or for profit.

The state announced in July that it would seek six new operators. Close to 750 people signed in who attended an informational session for would-be applicants in August.

“Well, when 800 people from all over the country and inside New Jersey show up to get an hour and a half presentation to fill out an application, you know there’s a tremendous amount of interest in the cannabis industry and the medical cannabis industry in particular in New Jersey,” Rudder said.

“The quality and the professionalism of the teams that have been applying – it’s second to none,” Rudder said. “I don’t think there’s ever been such a turnout for six licenses anywhere in the country. So we can be assured that we’re going to have a high level professionalism, high level of quality from an organizational perspective. And all those things will be to the benefit of the patient. We’re going to have a better product at a reduced price.”

The Department of Health expects additional requests for applications in the fall and winter, after current proposed rules are adopted. The first will be for additional cultivators and manufacturers and the second for additional dispensaries.

Rudder said the prospect for additional rounds of applications on the horizon added to the interest.

“So the people that are investing in New Jersey and looking at New Jersey are hoping that they get this round, but if not they know that they have better chances percentage-wise moving forward,” he said.

The applications will be evaluated and scored by a selection committee. Copies of the applications won’t be made public until after the selection of new licensees.

New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at

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