After months of haggling with legislators, Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday signed legislation that will legalize recreational marijuana for adults. But it’s going to be a while before you’re able to walk down the street and buy a bag of pot.

“We’re not there today. This is more likely going to be closer to the end of the year,” said Bill Caruso, general counsel for the New Jersey Cannabusiness Association and one of the founding steering committee members of New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform. “Probably by the end of this year, or beginning of next year, we’re going to see that recreational market. It’s going to take some time to get there and I’m happy that we’re on that journey today.”

Caruso said the next step is the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which will oversee all applications for licensing of new cannabis businesses.

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He said this will involve large companies getting involved in recreational marijuana as well as mom-and-pop type businesses and even “micro-programs."

"That’s going to lead to and look a lot more like our current craft beer industry and I think you will see a craft cannabis industry develop," he said.

He said the 12 medicinal marijuana distribution centers in operation will need to apply for licenses to be able to get into the recreational pot business, demonstrating they have local approval.

He said the big issue right now is quantity, but the state's medicinal marijuana centers won’t be caught flat-footed.

“They’ve been preparing for this so it’s not like today there’s a crop going in,” he said. “There’s been a robust effort to not only increase canopy space but also the supply.”

He said recreational pot will become a booming business that draws tourism.

"This is going to lead to significant demand and significant new revenue," he said, adding that fewer people remain oppose to legalization.

"This is an issue where I think people are becoming more educated on and they’re undoing some of the 'reefer madness' they learned in years past.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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