New Jersey passed law legalizing cannabis for adult use in November 2020 and introduced its first rules of possession and use requirements last month. The license filing window for the license to grow, sell and supply cannabis will hopefully open in time to be on the right track for the current start date for adult sales in February 2022. Amid the recent headlines about a large percentage of the state’s cities and towns that choose to go out of legal weed, the future of the cannabis scene is still very questionable.
To better understand what’s happening and what’s next for cannabis in New Jersey, I spoke to Tiyahnn Bryant and Precious Osagie-Erese at Roll Up Life, a delivery service at the forefront of the state’s burgeoning cannabis scene. The company currently only supplies CBD products in Essex County, New Jersey, but this is just the current step in moving towards a full-fledged recreational supply and distribution business – one that’s been in the works since 2017. In our chat, the East Orange indigenous people explain how they got the industry off the ground and what unique factors have influenced their local scene.
Thrillist: How come the two of you first became interested in cannabis delivery long before legalization in New Jersey seemed possible?
Tiyahnn Bryant: I went to Boise State University, and just when I turned 21, Washington and Oregon started their adult programs. As I explore the legal market, I unknowingly develop my own business plan to solve the gruesome queues in most stores.
When I got back to New Jersey, the medical program got going – and the problems I saw in the West were twice as bad. People had to wait so long for their medicine. There were about six medical stores serving the 40-50,000 medical patients in the state.
One day I’m in my car and it occurs to me – legal cannabis needs delivery apps. The first thing I did was call Precious and she didn’t get it at first. She was focused on her journalistic goals, and that was a good thing because her reaction made me do my own research to come up with a real business plan for Roll Up Life, understand the scope of lawyers and funding, etc. A year later me stormed back into the Precious office with it all.
Precious Osagie-Erese: When he first called me, I had just been accepted for my Masters in Columbia and I had no idea what was going on with the cannabis industry. So while he was putting his business plans in order, I read all about cannabis. It opened my eyes to a whole new way of looking at this plant, and when it clicked I was eager to build a business model that we could refine via CBD delivery.
What does the existing medical market look like?
POE: There are currently 21 pharmacies in the state serving approximately 120,000 registered medical patients. The lines are incredibly long. But in the leisure program it will be allowed to hand in at some point, and we are now working on our application.
TB: There are no big branded farms or edibles manufacturers yet – chewable things like candy, chocolate, or any kind of gummy bears are not allowed at all. Only lozenges or edibles such as tic tacs are available in medical stores.
But will delivery services soon be able to deliver to homes in counties that don’t have cannabis stores?
TB: Let’s hope so. Many of these places where cannabis has been banned surround us and are in our feasible delivery area. What I am most concerned about, however, is the increased demand and how supply is keeping up.
POE: One thing about those headlines, we’ve been to many ward council meetings over the past few years and we know the concerns of these people. A lot of them just want to wait and see how things go before they dive in. New Jersey has always been a kind of “wait and see” state. Let’s wait a year first; wait for NY to do it first; wait for the neighboring counties’ weed economy to get rolling first. So yes, while these bans are currently working in our favor, we’re happy to see them lifted over time as more cities and towns get educated. I think we’ll see a ton of them get back in right away.
Las Vegas really embraced cannabis when Nevada was legalized, allowing for more generous hours of operation and accessibility like drive-thru in pharmacies. Do you have a sense of whether Atlantic City will accept weed too?
TB: There are definitely hotels in Atlantic City already interested in making arrangements with distributors or delivery services to offer cannabis to their guests. At the last personal event I attended, a hotel manager was curious about some kind of “hotbox route” where a car service picks up guests, takes them to a specific store and then to specific consumption lounges, where they can be infused, meals and such . How this could be done is still up in the air as rules are announced, but interest – both from other businesses and consumers – is very high.
POE: There really is so much potential and opportunity. Even if West Coast brands like Cookies have some level of awareness here, the local guides have yet to be made. There is nothing but space. And I am relieved that our Commission is making sure that the room is occupied by people of color; by residents of New Jersey; and people who want to give back to communities hit by the war on drugs. We are very excited about the future.