Residents supported the ballot measure in the Nov. 3 election by a 2-to-1 margin. State lawmakers are now crafting enabling legislation to help set up the parameters of the marketplace, and a new state commission is set to start creating regulations for the new industry.
Developing the regulations will take time, and Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has said it would probably take about a year before the first wave of retail sales begins. The state hasn't determined how many licenses for growers and retail sites will be allowed. Still, established marijuana businesses and those looking to break into the industry are preparing now.
Charles Gormally, co-chairman of the cannabis-law practice at Brach Eichler, said his law firm was fielding calls from people with an array of backgrounds seeking to get into the cannabis business.
"You've got farmers who own their land, you got distressed warehouse folks, you've got brownfield developers," Mr. Gormally said. "Those folks have control over real estate, and that is their ticket into the marketplace."
The state joins Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine as the fourth state in the Northeast to legalize recreational marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. And with a population of nearly nine million people, it will become the most populous state in the region that permits cannabis sales.
New Jersey also benefits because of its proximity to both New York City and Philadelphia, two large cities where recreational marijuana sales remain illegal, said William Caruso, a co-founder of New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform.
"I still see New Jersey being the gem in the region," Mr. Caruso said. "You are seeing significant opportunity for investment."
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, favors legalization but the Republican-controlled state Legislature has resisted the governor's calls to pass legislation. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said earlier this month he thought lawmakers in his state could pass legislation in 2021, given the state faces a cash crunch and could use the tax revenue.
In New Jersey, one of the last unresolved issues is whether to add a tax on marijuana on top of the state's 6.625% sales tax and where to allocate the tax revenues from the new industry. State lawmakers continue to negotiate on a final bill.
Curaleaf Holdings Inc., a marijuana company that operates in 23 states and grows and sells both medical and recreational cannabis, has one cultivation facility and one medical dispensary in New Jersey. The company is already in the planning stages to increase production in New Jersey, said Boris Jordan, the company's executive chairman. "We intend to expand dramatically, particularly on the cultivation side," he said.
Curaleaf is building a 120,000-square-foot indoor cultivation facility and later plans to build a 500,000-square-foot outdoor operation, Mr. Jordan said. The company also plans to add two additional retail locations, he said.
Mr. Jordan said his company could be ready to sell recreational marijuana in New Jersey as early as the second quarter of 2021, although it is unknown if state regulations will be set by then.
Once New Jersey's marijuana program is fully developed, the marketplace could generate at least $2.5 billion in sales, said Scott Rudder, chairman of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association. It is expected to create 30,000 direct and indirect jobs, he said.
"We have record unemployment. Lots of businesses have shuttered -- some of them forever," Mr. Rudder said. "We really need to take aggressive measures, and the cannabis industry is ripe for that."