High Holidays

Brandon Castro, owner of Brew Coffee Bar
Brandon Castro, owner of Brew Coffee Bar. Photo by Steven Russell.

Out Health

“You’re really anxious about this, aren’t you?” my friend and fellow Matawan businessman, Brandon Castro, owner of Brew Coffee Bar, asked me as he peered over his laptop at his store one Sunday afternoon. “Yeah,” I answered, “I’ve been anxious all my life. Holidays, family dinners, and busy schedules are the worst.”

I’ve never taken any medication for anxiety, and, surprisingly, I lived through the ’60s and ’70s without turning to marijuana for help. When I heard that New Jersey was going to legalize the use of recreational cannabis, I thought I would investigate the experience surrounding the purchase of cannabis.

I think there might be many other similarly inexperienced people in the state who are thinking the same thing. Of course, my anxiety goes up in this kind of situation, so I set my mind to gaining familiarity, and enlisting the help of a friend, before venturing out into uncharted territory.

We looked online and found the “New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization (CREAMM) Act,” which “allows for the legal sale and use of cannabis and cannabis products for residents 21 years and older. The newly adopted New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission rules establish the recreational cannabis industry in the state.” You can find it at https://www.nj.gov/cannabis/adult-personal/.

Some things to keep in mind from the site:

  1. You can buy recreational cannabis if you are a New Jersey resident or visitor 21 years and older, at any of the New Jersey licensed cannabis dispensaries listed on the site.
  2. You can buy up to the equivalent of 28.35 grams or 1 ounce of usable cannabis with each transaction.
  3. You must show a government-issued identification card to prove that you are of age, but the store cannot make a copy of your ID or retain a record of your purchase.
  4. It is still illegal to transport cannabis across state lines.
  5. You may give up to 1 ounce of cannabis to another adult 21 years or older.
  6. Laws regarding driving while impaired applies to being under the influence of cannabis.

The site also has information about safe and responsible consumption. We found links to help with desired effects, such as a feeling of well-being, increased appetite, and relief from pain. Although there aren’t a lot of studies on these and adverse effects, there is information available in helping avoid feelings of confusion, paranoia, panic, increased blood pressure, delusions, nausea, or hallucinations. One should scrutinize any potential interactions with other drugs or alcohol.

We found that the National Institutes of Health is a great resource as well. You can get advice on benefits and risks at


This site left us with these words:

“Take charge of your health — talk with your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Together, you can make shared, well-informed decisions.”

With this encouragement in hand, we struck out on my adventure. Brandon’s presence helped dispel my feelings of apprehension and doubt as a 62-year-old greenhorn. He closed shop, and we headed down the Parkway to Zen Leaf in Neptune.

Brandon Castro is holding the bag
Brandon Castro is holding the bag. Photo by Steven Russell.

After a rainy half hour in the car, speculating about what would happen, we entered the store and were told that the township allows them to sell only medicinal products on Sundays. We should have checked their website. We did assure ourselves that their store in Elizabeth would fulfill our needs and got back onto the Parkway for another hour. I was anticipating long lines and an impatient staff, but what I found was a very welcoming, laid-back, and helpful team, and no lines at all. A very accommodating woman behind the counter helped me pick out a package of pomegranate gummies that would serve my needs.

As Brandon and I got back into my car I tried to hide my purchase and the nice Zen Leaf bag it came in. “You don’t have to do that. Just keep the bag sealed,” Brandon advised me. “Oh. Yeah. It’s legal, and, I mean, I do have to get it home,” I acknowledged as we both chuckled.

I’m glad I did such research and wish I had done more. I’m not sure what I will do now, but I have a tool that I’m comfortable with in my arsenal of angst busters. I had what turned out to be a nice day with a friend despite the apprehensions I had. There’s a lot more to learn about cannabis, but New Jersey and I will be exploring it together.