Real work can begin on creating New Jersey's legal adult-use marijuana market. The panel charged with guiding and overseeing legal weed held its first meeting Monday.

"I'm thrilled that we've finally arrived at this historic day, the inaugural public meeting of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission," said CRC chairwoman Dianna Houenou.

Houenou, senior policy advisor to Gov. Phil Murphy, said the CRC aims to develop a "national model for sensible, fair oversight."

"This will take time," she said.

During the meeting, members elected a vice chair, approved a logo, and voted to transfer authority from the Department of Health to the CRC for activities related to medical marijuana, which launched for patients in 2012.

The CRC is also charged with expanding and improving access to medical cannabis. Close to 107,000 patients are currently enrolled in the state's program, and there are more than 1,250 participating healthcare practitioners.

"At any given time we have roughly 20,000 pounds of cannabis and cannabis products in aggregate in inventories across the state," said Jeff Brown, the commission's executive director.

Before New Jerseyans see an official launch of the personal-use cannabis market, the CRC needs to first address staffing and infrastructure needs, then get to work on regulations that will lead to the eventual licensing of new businesses.

"The legal industry as well as the expanded medical industry come down to regulations, and we have our work cut out for us on that front," Brown said.

In the first two years, there's a limit on the number of cultivators that can be awarded licenses, Brown noted when discussing initial challenges to growth. Brown added the CRC is seeing a "growing prevalence of municipal bans" — these bans don't necessarily prohibit cannabis in a municipality, but it bans the CRC's ability to regulate an industry there.

"I would encourage all municipalities to just work with us," Brown said. "Wait to see the regulations that we do before making a decision on which way you want to go."

The CRC tabled plans to officially adopt a meeting schedule for the rest of 2021, but a proposal calls for 10 more meetings before the end of the year, including one on April 22 at 10:30 a.m.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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