What’s Happening In New Jersey’s Weed Delivery Scene?
Precious Osagie-Erese and Tiyahnn Bryant are at the forefront of the state’s emerging weed scene.
New Jersey passed a law legalizing cannabis for adult use in November of 2020, and last month rolled out its first batch of rules for possession and application requirements. The submission window for license to grow, sell and deliver cannabis will hopefully open in time to stay on track for the current launch date for adult use sales in February 2022. However, amid recent headlines about a huge percentage of the state’s cities and municipalities opting out of legal weed, the future of the cannabis scene is still very much in question.
To better understand what’s happening and what’s next in New Jersey cannabis, I spoke with Tiyahnn Bryant and Precious Osagie-Erese of Roll Up Life, a delivery service at the forefront of the state’s emerging weed scene. The company currently only delivers CBD products in Essex County, New Jersey, but this is just the current step on their path towards a full-fledged recreational delivery and distribution business—one that’s been in the works since 2017. In our chat, the East Orange natives explain how they got going before the industry did and the unique factors impacting their local scene.
Thrillist: How is it that you two first got interested in cannabis delivery long before legalization seemed possible in New Jersey?
Tiyahnn Bryant: I went to Boise State University, and just as I was turning 21 years old, Washington and Oregon were getting their adult use programs going. So as I’m exploring the legal market, I’m unknowingly developing my own business plan to solve the atrocious lines at most shops.
When I got back to New Jersey, the medical program was getting going—and the issues I saw in the West were twice as bad. People had to wait so long for their medicine. There were something like six medical shops meant to serve the 40-50k medical patients in the state.
One day, I’m sitting in my car, and it hits 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 journalism goals, and that was good, because her reaction pushed me to do my own research to develop a true business plan for Roll Up Life, to understand the scope of lawyers and funding, etc.. One year later, I barged back into Precious’ office with all of it.
Precious Osagie-Erese: When he first called me, I’d just been accepted to Columbia for my Masters, and I had no idea what was going on with the weed industry. So, while he was getting his business plans in order, I was reading up on everything cannabis. It opened my eyes to a totally new way of looking at this plant, and once it clicked, I was eager to set up a business model we could refine via CBD delivery.
What is the existing medical market like?
POE: Right now, there are 21 dispensaries serving about 120,000 registered medical patients in the state. The lines are incredibly long. But delivery is going to eventually be allowed in the recreational program, and we’re working on our application now.
TB: There aren’t big branded farms or edibles companies yet—chewable stuff like candy, chocolate or any kind of gummy isn’t allowed at all. Only lozenges or edibles like Tic Tacs are available in medical shops.
But soon delivery services will be able to deliver to residences in counties where there are no cannabis shops?
TB: Let’s hope so. A lot of those locations where they banned cannabis surround us, and are within our feasible delivery territory. I’m most worried about the increased demand though, and how supply is going to be able to keep up.
POE: One thing about these headlines—we’ve attended many local city council meetings over the past couple years, and we know the concerns of these people. A lot of them want to just wait and see how things go before diving in. New Jersey has always been kind of a “wait-and-see” state. Let’s wait a year first; wait for NY to do it first; wait for the neighboring counties’ weed economies to get rolling first. So yes, while these bans currently work in our favor, we’re excited to see them withdrawn over time as more cities and municipalities get educated. I think we’re going to see a ton of them jump right back in.
Las Vegas really embraced cannabis when Nevada legalized, allowing more generous hours of operation and accessibility like drive-thrus at dispensaries. Do you have a sense for whether Atlantic City will embrace weed as well?
TB: There are definitely already Atlantic City hotels interested in making arrangements with distributors or delivery services to be able to provide cannabis to their guests. At the last in-person event I attended, one hotel manager was curious about a sort of “hotbox route” where a car service would pick up guests, bring them to a particular shop and then to appointed consumption lounges where they’d enjoy infused meals and that kind of thing. How any of that could be executed is still up in the air while regulations are announced, but the interest—both from other businesses and from consumers—is super high.
POE: There really is so much potential and opportunity. Even if West Coast brands like Cookies have some recognition here, the local leaders have yet to be made. There is nothing but space. And I’m relieved that our Commission is making sure that space is occupied by people of color; by New Jersey residents; and by people who are looking to give back to communities impacted by the War on Drugs. We’re very excited for the future.