SOMERVILLE, NJ – Mayor Dennis Sullivan and members of the Borough Council will continue to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of licensing retail dispensaries for the sale of legal marijuana during a virtual council meeting beginning at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
The meeting is a continuation of a conversation that began at the April 19 meeting.
The public is invited to participate and offer comments by connecting to the following link:
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“I think we want to figure out the best way to proceed, what groups and individuals we put together for a small working group and get some feedback as to where we ultimately wind up,” Sullivan said. I expect a spirited, healthy and fruitful discussion.
“By June we should have it in ordinance form to get it introduced and adopted and get on with the rest fo the business of the town,” he added.
New Jersey voters approved a referendum legalizing Cannabis in the November 2020 election by more than 70 percent; the vote in Somerset County reflected that overwhelming majority.
On Feb, 22, 2021, Governor Murphy signed into law the “New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act” which legalizes the recreational use of marijuana by adults 21 years of age or older, and establishes a comprehensive regulatory and licensing scheme for commercial recreational (adult use) cannabis operations, use and possession.
The five-member New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission has six months to promulgate the laws to oversee the legalization of cannabis; New Jersey is the 13th state to legalize the sale and possession of cannabis.
The law allows municipalities 180 days – until Aug. 21, 2021 – to take action to either prohibit or limit the number, location, and operating hours of cannabis establishments, distributors, and delivery services.
If municipalities do not take action within 180 days, by default all 6 license/classes of cannabis would be permitted to operate in the municipality in both commercial and industrial zones as a conditional use.
Municipalities that pass an ordinance within 180 days to ban cannabis establishments or distributor operations can, at any time, reverse that decision and opt-in. However, once a municipality permits cannabis establishment or distributor operations in their community, the municipality may not opt-out for 5 years.
This ordinance does not prohibit residents from partaking in cannabis usage on their own property, private club or as the law permits, but it will enable lawmakers to gather more information on how to best approach marijuana sales and usage in the community, according to Lipani.
The state law gives local governing bodies several options, from licensing cannabis retail stores in their business districts to an outright ban on such businesses. The law provides for six different types of licenses that businesses may seek in connection with the recreational cannabis market:
Class 1 License: Cannabis Cultivator (growing cannabis)
Class 2 License: Cannabis Manufacturer (preparing and packaging)
Class 3 License: Cannabis Wholesaler (selling to other wholesalers and retailers)
Class 4 License: Cannabis Distributor (selling between cultivators/establishments)
Class 5 License: Cannabis Retailer (selling to retail customers)
Class 6 License: Cannabis Delivery (delivery from retailers to retail customers).
Somerville officials joined with local lawmakers throughout the state on April 9 for a webinar hosted by the New Jersey League of Municipalities to learn more about the law legalizing marijuana and how it may affect the state’s 567 municipalities.
Elsewhere in Somerset County:
On April 6, the Bridgewater Township Council voted to ban the sale of marijuana in the township, approving four related ordinances prohibiting the operation of cannabis businesses within Bridgewater’s borders; the operation of any class of marijuana establishment in all the town’s zones; smoking, vaping, aerosolizing and consumption of cannabis or cannabis items on public property; and recreational cannabis, as a matter of conduct.
On April 15, 2021, Bernardsville lawmakers voted in favor of an ordinance prohibiting retail sales of marijuana;
On April 16, Manville voted to ban retail sales of marijuana;
On April 28, the Hillsborough Township Committee introduced an ordinance banning retail or wholesale marijuana operations in the township;; a public hearing is scheduled in three weeks.
The Raritan Borough Council is also contemplating a similar ban.