OLD BRIDGE – The Township Council has again banned recreational and medical marijuana businesses that manufacture, sell or dispense weed-related paraphernalia from operating here.
The council approved an ordinance at its Tuesday meeting that amends the “prohibited uses” section in the land development code. Councilwoman Edina Brown voted against the ordinance, and Councilman John Murphy III abstained. Councilman Mark Razzoli was not present.
The ordinance prohibits all classes of cannabis establishments, distributors and delivery services, whether for medicinal or recreational purposes, including those establishments that manufacture, sell or dispense cannabis related paraphernalia, from operating in the township.
The ordinance also says that marijuana or cannabis cultivation facilities, production or manufacturing facilities, testing facilities, wholesale or retail stores, dispensaries and delivery services, which are related to cannabis or marijuana for medical purposes, and such facilities or stores that manufacture, sell or dispense marijuana related paraphernalia for medical purposes, are prohibited from operating in the township.
The ordinance does not ban the delivery of recreational or medical cannabis or related items or supplies that emanates from a delivery service located outside the township.
Township attorney Mark Roselli explained that when the state enacted legislation to legalize cannabis, municipalities were given an opportunity to either opt in or opt out by Aug. 22.
Under state law, if municipalities do not adopt a marijuana zoning ordinance by Aug. 22, six months after legalization went into effect, marijuana businesses would be allowed to operate in a municipality for five years.
However, a municipality could reverse a ban at any time. If the township does not pass the ordinance, it would not be allowed to prohibit marijuana businesses for at least five years.
Roselli said at this time, an overwhelming majority of municipalities in New Jersey have prohibited it.
There are a lot of unknowns, he said.
He said regulations regarding the legislation are not due out until Aug. 22, about the same time that municipalities must decide.
He said he thinks that “a lot of municipalities did not feel it was in their best interest to act in the dark.”
Roselli said the state gave municipalities a short time frame in which to act.
Because it is a land use ordinance, it is a little more complicated, he said.
Prior to when marijuana was legalized in New Jersey, the Township Council in 2018 approved an ordinance that banned businesses from the sale, distribution, cultivation and facilitating the use of recreation and or medicinal marijuana.
The prior ordinance amended the land development code’s “prohibited use” section to include “businesses selling, distributing, cultivating, growing and/or facilitating the sale and/or use of either recreation and or medicinal marijuana, including any ancillary or related paraphernalia.”
Under the new state law, any existing municipal ordinances regulating or prohibiting cannabis are void and must be readopted to be effective.
Municipalities also are not allowed to ban residents from using marijuana, according to state law.
Hugh Giordano a representative with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 152 opposed the ban because it “hurts good jobs.”
Edward “Lefty” Grimes with SativaCross.org, which advocates for the sick and disabled, said “this ordinance is very hurtful to disabled vets.”
“It also includes medical cannabis,” he said. “I don’t understand why you would want to disrupt the supply chain of medicine to the sick and the dying.”
Susan Loyer covers Middlesex County and more for MyCentralJersey.com. To get unlimited access to her work, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.