A spatial analysis of New Jersey's medical cannabis dispensary accessibility

Between a lack of permits available from the state Department of Health (now handled by the Cannabis Regulatory Commission), a patchwork of local zoning and planning decisions that often serve as obstacle, and litigation over the previous round of dispensary permits, efforts to expand dispensaries have moved slowly.

The end result has been an unequal allocation of dispensaries across New Jersey — with some counties missing out entirely. That has left residents to look to neighboring counties to obtain medical cannabis.

A third of all counties — Morris, Sussex, Somerset, Salem, Ocean, Hunterdon & Cape May — have not had a single medical cannabis dispensary commence operations since the state’s medical cannabis began under Governor Chris Christie, according to official state records.

Mapping the towns left behind by existing dispensaries

For those who reside in a county without a dispensary, travel times can be quite onerous. I’m particularly interested in looking at regions of New Jersey that are more than half an hour’s drive to the nearest dispensary to illuminate regions of the state that might be best served by new dispensaries.

Using a tool called Open Source Routing Machine (OSRM) via R, I created isochrones — polygons that show drive times to a location at various geographic distances — for all currently licensed cannabis dispensaries in New Jersey. Inner segments of each polygon have shorter drive times, while outer segments represent a max drive time of half an hour (30 minutes). Those who reside in towns outside of this polygon can face max drive times of 30 minutes to over an hour to reach the nearest dispensary.

Over 756,000 New Jerseyans face long drives to the nearest dispensary

The left side of the map shows a combined region of the state that can reach the nearest dispensary within 30 minutes, while the right side shows the individual isochrones, colored at 10 minute intervals. Individual dispensaries are mapped as pink points.

Municipalities are mapped and colored by population, and were included in this map if 100% of their boundaries placed them at a maximum drive time of 30 minutes or greater to reach the nearest dispensary.

110 municipalities which are home to 756,034 New Jerseyans face maximum drive times of 30 minutes or greater to the nearest dispensary, a problem that is compounded by a lack of public transit infrastructure in some regions of the state.

Concluding thoughts

Many medical cannabis patients are rightfully concerned that adult-use recreational sales will place further strain on an already inadequate system, with just 23 dispensaries serving a state of over 9 million residents. Just 13 of them are set to start offering recreational sales when they begin on April 21st.

Much of Ocean County in the state’s coastal region, and the northwest portion of the state in Sussex, Warren, Hunterdon & Morris counties are located outside of a reasonable distance to the nearest medical cannabis dispensary. Portions of Salem and Cape May counties would also benefit from a more optimally placed dispensary to better serve these municipalities.

New Jersey’s cannabis regulators should adopt a data-driven planning strategy to strategically target under-served regions of the state to ensure a more equitable allocation of future dispensaries to the regions of New Jersey currently lacking them.

The full list of towns

All 110 municipalities highlighted in this post with their current population from the 2020 ACS can be found below.

TownPopulation Estimate
Hope township, Warren County, New Jersey1897
Woodbine borough, Cape May County, New Jersey2352
Wildwood Crest borough, Cape May County, New Jersey3073
Glen Gardner borough, Hunterdon County, New Jersey1554
West Cape May borough, Cape May County, New Jersey1008
Pine Beach borough, Ocean County, New Jersey2361
Flemington borough, Hunterdon County, New Jersey4601
West Wildwood borough, Cape May County, New Jersey409
Wharton borough, Morris County, New Jersey6458
Eagleswood township, Ocean County, New Jersey1558
Lavallette borough, Ocean County, New Jersey2171
Ship Bottom borough, Ocean County, New Jersey1074
Green township, Sussex County, New Jersey3482
Newton town, Sussex County, New Jersey7935
Beach Haven borough, Ocean County, New Jersey979
Lambertville city, Hunterdon County, New Jersey3809
Lafayette township, Sussex County, New Jersey2238
Ocean Gate borough, Ocean County, New Jersey1488
Surf City borough, Ocean County, New Jersey1260
Stone Harbor borough, Cape May County, New Jersey876
Andover borough, Sussex County, New Jersey675
Frenchtown borough, Hunterdon County, New Jersey1366
Millstone borough, Somerset County, New Jersey573
Island Heights borough, Ocean County, New Jersey1480
Clinton town, Hunterdon County, New Jersey2699
Lakehurst borough, Ocean County, New Jersey2707
Sussex borough, Sussex County, New Jersey1836
Harvey Cedars borough, Ocean County, New Jersey452
Salem city, Salem County, New Jersey4761
Barnegat Light borough, Ocean County, New Jersey461
Woodland township, Burlington County, New Jersey1951
Mount Arlington borough, Morris County, New Jersey5751
Branchburg township, Somerset County, New Jersey14509
Barnegat township, Ocean County, New Jersey23155
Avalon borough, Cape May County, New Jersey1456
Somerville borough, Somerset County, New Jersey12139
Carneys Point township, Salem County, New Jersey7722
Frelinghuysen township, Warren County, New Jersey2085
Knowlton township, Warren County, New Jersey2941
Delaware township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey4443
High Bridge borough, Hunterdon County, New Jersey3460
Kingwood township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey3749
Lebanon township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey6106
Readington township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey15889
Tewksbury township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey5796
Raritan borough, Somerset County, New Jersey7833
Cape May city, Cape May County, New Jersey3446
Middle township, Cape May County, New Jersey18400
Chester township, Morris County, New Jersey7734
Jefferson township, Morris County, New Jersey20912
Allamuchy township, Warren County, New Jersey4640
Liberty township, Warren County, New Jersey2826
Mendham borough, Morris County, New Jersey4880
Mine Hill township, Morris County, New Jersey3511
Netcong borough, Morris County, New Jersey3167
Roxbury township, Morris County, New Jersey22882
Berkeley township, Ocean County, New Jersey41963
Lacey township, Ocean County, New Jersey29076
Tuckerton borough, Ocean County, New Jersey3373
Stillwater township, Sussex County, New Jersey3900
Independence township, Warren County, New Jersey5438
Lebanon borough, Hunterdon County, New Jersey2040
Branchville borough, Sussex County, New Jersey1054
Hamburg borough, Sussex County, New Jersey3149
Hardyston township, Sussex County, New Jersey7815
Montague township, Sussex County, New Jersey3666
Ogdensburg borough, Sussex County, New Jersey2164
Sparta township, Sussex County, New Jersey18681
Hardwick township, Warren County, New Jersey1519
Stanhope borough, Sussex County, New Jersey3327
Vernon township, Sussex County, New Jersey22102
Wantage township, Sussex County, New Jersey10899
Byram township, Sussex County, New Jersey7944
Seaside Park borough, Ocean County, New Jersey1752
Sea Isle City city, Cape May County, New Jersey2122
Washington township, Morris County, New Jersey18304
Clinton township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey12909
Cape May Point borough, Cape May County, New Jersey165
Pennsville township, Salem County, New Jersey12505
Stafford township, Ocean County, New Jersey27674
Mannington township, Salem County, New Jersey1854
Lower township, Cape May County, New Jersey21515
Manchester township, Ocean County, New Jersey43649
Seaside Heights borough, Ocean County, New Jersey2917
Andover township, Sussex County, New Jersey5914
Franklin borough, Sussex County, New Jersey4737
Hopatcong borough, Sussex County, New Jersey14228
Sandyston township, Sussex County, New Jersey1893
Peapack and Gladstone borough, Somerset County, New Jersey2582
Chester borough, Morris County, New Jersey1514
Wildwood city, Cape May County, New Jersey4985
Penns Grove borough, Salem County, New Jersey4793
Califon borough, Hunterdon County, New Jersey1184
Stockton borough, Hunterdon County, New Jersey472
Elsinboro township, Salem County, New Jersey931
North Wildwood city, Cape May County, New Jersey3794
Raritan township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey22252
Hackettstown town, Warren County, New Jersey9440
South Toms River borough, Ocean County, New Jersey3676
Fredon township, Sussex County, New Jersey3172
Walpack township, Sussex County, New Jersey8
Long Beach township, Ocean County, New Jersey3074
Frankford township, Sussex County, New Jersey5312
Beachwood borough, Ocean County, New Jersey11274
Ocean township, Ocean County, New Jersey9071
Lower Alloways Creek township, Salem County, New Jersey1729
Blairstown township, Warren County, New Jersey5727
Mount Olive township, Morris County, New Jersey28913
Hampton township, Sussex County, New Jersey4865
Bedminster township, Somerset County, New Jersey8042

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Gavin C. Rozzi
Gavin C. Rozzi
Pushing the boundaries of data, technology & public policy

Gavin Rozzi is a data scientist from New Jersey. Gavin studies urban informatics, environmental factors affecting the spread of COVID-19 & public policy development.

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