New Jersey is set to expand its medicinal cannabis industry by green-lighting 54 new dispensaries, 24 cultivation facilities and 30 manufacturing hubs.

The New Jersey Department of Health announced it is seeking new applicants to operate a total of 108 new “Alternative Treatment Centers”. It is making provisions for up to 38 in the northern region of the state, up to 38 in the central region, and up to 32 in South Jersey.

This division is based on population and general patient need. “We are at a point where patients just cannot wait any longer for easily accessible, affordable therapy,” said New Jersey health commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal. “This request for applications allows for specialization of businesses to increase medical product in our state.”

There are three available sizes for the sites, ranging from 5,000 sq. ft. to 30,000 sq. ft., and Elnahal said this will allow small and medium-sized enterprises to participate in the program.

In March 2018, the New Jersey Department of Health added chronic pain, anxiety, migraines, and Tourette’s syndrome to the list of qualifying conditions for medicinal marijuana. Since then, opioid use disorder has also joined the list.

A further 30,000 new patients have joined the Garden State’s program since March 2018, and the patient count now stands at 47,500. There is now the need to significantly ramp up cultivation, distribution and retail within the state.

So far only six organizations are operating Alternative Treatment Centers in New Jersey, while a further six were selected last year but have not been licensed.

All 12 firms will be permitted to participate in this application process, the Department confirmed.

On Thursday last week, the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act passed through the New Jersey Senate by a 33-4 vote. It seeks to raise the monthly amount permitted to 3 ounces per patient and legalize the manufacture and sale of edibles and oils. It would also phase out the current 6.625% sales tax on medical marijuana by the year 2025.

There was a push to legalize recreational cannabis use in New Jersey this year, but it stalled last month and the Senate president declared it dead. It is now expected to be put to a public ballot in 2020, allowing the people of New Jersey to decide if it should be legalized.