TRENTON – Just over one month remains until the twin deadlines for the state to adopt its initial regulations for legalized marijuana and municipalities to decide if they want to opt out of allowing such businesses, at least in near term.

The state Cannabis Regulatory Commission will only partially meet its deadline. CRC chairwoman Dianna Houenou said the agency has “begun putting pen to paper” on draft rules that might change and that will not address every topic included in the state’s legalization law.

“Due to the timelines that are dictated in statute, developing regulations on every single topic that’s identified in the CREAMM Act is simply not very practicable,” Houenou said of the 166-page Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act.

“So as such, the CRC will need to prioritize the initial rules on the subjects that are most critical to the beginning stages of establishing the regulated cannabis industry,” Houenou said at the commission’s meeting last week.

Houenou said the draft language in development still might change as the agency hears from experts and the public. Those will be interim rules, anyway, and the yearlong process for adopting permanent rules will begin as soon as the temporary regulations are adopted.

“But come Aug. 21, really we commissioners want the rules to be clear and focused so that the people know what to expect as we move forward,” she said.

The most important topics will be covered in the interim rules. Others that aren’t could be added later, even during the period when permanent rules are being written.

“Given the immediate need to prioritize certain rules over others, the CRC’s work to build out regulations will necessarily extend beyond Aug. 21,” Houenou said.

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Jeff Brown, executive director of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, said a lot of resources are being devoted to getting the interim regulations completed by Aug. 21. The agency is also focused on selected new locations for medical marijuana dispensaries, under a round of applications solicited in 2019.

“Where applications and getting ready for licensing is 1A, the 2019 request for applications is 1AA,” Brown said. “It is the highest priority projects right now on our plates. Trust me, we want to get this done as quickly as we can.”

Brown said scoring of the applications is very close to wrapping up and the state is “on the precipice” of acting on those. Selections will be voted on at a public CRC meeting; the next of those is Aug. 3rd.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

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