New Jersey Flooded by Applicants as It Expands Marijuana Vendors

(Bloomberg) -- New Jersey’s plan to expand the medical marijuana business in the state has drawn 146 applications from would-be providers, more than 24 times the number of new dispensaries expected to open.

Seven months after Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, took office, the number of residents on the medical marijuana patient registry has doubled to 30,000, according to Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal. Murphy expanded the list of medical conditions eligible for marijuana treatment, leading to the higher enrollment, and he increased New Jersey’s target for dispensaries to as many as 12 from six.

Though New Jersey legalized medical marijuana in 2010, the program languished for eight years under Republican Governor Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor who said he feared drug abuse and the consequences of violating a U.S. government ban on the drug. Some New Jerseyans moved to less restrictive states for non-U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved relief of nausea, seizures, chronic pain and other ailments.

“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 in a statement.

In all, 106 organizations applied to run outlets in the northern, central and southern parts of the state, with some putting in multiple bids. The approved operators will be announced in November.

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