In New York and New Jersey, the race is on to grow legal weed.
In Orange County, N.Y., there are plans to build a large cannabis cultivation and processing plant on the grounds of a defunct state prison.
About 25 miles south, over the border in New Jersey, an industrial complex once owned by the pharmaceutical giant Merck will be converted into an even bigger marijuana-growing hub.
In Winslow, N.J., about 30 miles outside Philadelphia, a new indoor cultivation complex just celebrated its first harvest.
The advent of legalized adult-use marijuana in New York and New Jersey is an entrepreneur’s dream, with some estimating that the potential market in the densely populated region will soar to more than $6 billion within five years.
medical marijuana market, the supply of dried cannabis flower, the most potent part of a female plant, has rarely met the demand, according to industry lobbyists and state officials. At the start of the pandemic, as demand exploded, it grew even more scarce, patients and business owners said.
The supply gap has narrowed as the statewide inventory of flower and products made from a plant’s extracted oils more than doubled between March of last year and this spring. Still, patients and owners say dispensaries often sell out of popular strains.
“There’s very little stock,” said Shaya Brodchandel, the chief executive of Harmony Foundation in Secaucus, N.J., and president of the New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association. “Almost no wholesale. As we harvest we’re putting it straight into retail.”
Harmony purchased the former Merck site in Lafayette, N.J., late last year and is awaiting permits to begin construction, Mr. Brodchandel said.
Oregon, which issued thousands of cultivation licenses after legalizing marijuana six years ago, has an overabundance of cannabis. But many of the other 16 states where nonmedical marijuana is now legal have faced supply constraints similar to those in New York and New Jersey as production slowly scaled up to meet demand.
“There’s always a dearth of flower in a new market,” said Greg Rochlin, chief executive of the Northeast division of TerrAscend, a cannabis company that operates in Canada and the United States and this month opened New Jersey’s 17th medical marijuana dispensary.
In New York, where the medical marijuana program is smaller and more restrictive than New Jersey’s, the menu of products includes oils, tinctures and finely ground flower suitable for vaping. But the sale of loose marijuana buds for smoking is prohibited, and only 150,000 of the state’s 13.5 million adults who are 21 or older are registered as patients.
With modest demand, there has been little incentive to boost supply. Until now.
Adult-use marijuana sales could begin within a year in New Jersey and in early 2023 in New York, industry experts predict.