Next year, Jersey City residents looking to get high may be able to step into a cannabis consumption lounge, buy a joint, and smoke it on-site.
Neighboring Bayonne may be home to retail shops and a marijuana grow — but no lounges.
And just up the hill in Union City, there will be no cannabis businesses whatsoever.
Under New Jersey’s landmark recreational marijuana law, passed in February, municipalities across the state have until Aug. 21 to implement rules about cannabis businesses — but have broad leeway in determining what those rules say.
Now, as that deadline approaches, Hudson County’s patchwork of recreational marijuana laws are coming into focus.
“It’s not every day that cities have an opportunity to really touch and be a part of an entirely new industry,” said Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, a longtime advocate of legal marijuana.
So far, Jersey City, Hoboken, Bayonne, North Bergen and East Newark have passed or are considering rules that would open the towns up for cannabis businesses.
Earlier this month, Jersey City’s Planning Board passed a zoning ordinance allowing all types of cannabis businesses within city limits, except delivery businesses. There are no limits on how many such businesses will be allowed.
Fulop highlighted the “social justice component” in the city’s plans to allow on-site consumption lounges, noting that, since the drug is still a controlled substance under federal law, it cannot be used in federally subsidized housing.
“If you’re really focused on social justice, you can’t say that somebody can get cannabis for medical or adult use and not have a place to use it for medical or adult use,” he said.
Neighboring Hoboken is taking a similar route: an ordinance introduced earlier this month would allow a total of five dispensaries or retail shops in the city and would open the door for on-site consumption lounges.
North Bergen’s board of commissioners is also considering an ordinance that would open the town up to all marijuana businesses except delivery services and lounges. Only two retailers would be allowed under the ordinance, and applicants would have to apply for licenses to the “cannabis committee,” a body set to include the police chief, township administrator, and director of community improvement.
East Newark, which is roughly one-tenth of a square mile in size, is considering an ordinance that would allow up to 10 cannabis businesses, with a maximum of two of each type: retail, cultivation, manufacturing, wholesale and distribution.
Meanwhile, Bayonne’s city council voted this spring to limit cannabis businesses in the city to only four: two retailers, one grower, and one processing facility.
“We think that’s plenty, especially for something so new,” City Council President Sharon Nadrowski said at the time.
Businesses seeking to operate in those municipalities would still need approval from the state and from town officials, and would be subject to those towns’ zoning rules. City officials plan to implement rules limiting how close businesses can be to schools and each other, as well as security and odor mitigation measures.
Cannabis rules differ from town to town on more trivial matters, too. In North Bergen, the proposed cannabis ordinance bars weed businesses from operating “without opaque barriers to shield operations.”
But in East Newark, the proposed rules would prohibit windows from being “coated in any type of protective film, laminate or glazing” that “prevents the East Newark Police Department from being able to look into the establishments for security reasons.”
West New York and Harrison have not yet introduced cannabis ordinances, officials there said.
Meanwhile, five Hudson County towns — Union City, Kearny, Weehawken, Secaucus, and Guttenberg — have introduced or passed ordinances banning all recreational marijuana businesses, with the exception of medical facilities.
“As a mayor, I get dozens of calls a week concerning people smoking marijuana and other issues surrounding quality of life,” Union City Mayor Brian Stack said in May. “Union City is just too densely populated to become a location for recreational sales.”
But officials in Secaucus and Guttenberg say that their rules could change in the future.
Under the terms of New Jersey’s law, towns that fail to pass ordinances before Aug. 21 automatically become open to all types of cannabis businesses for five years. But by passing a ban, municipalities can maintain the status quo while working out the terms of a future ordinance.
Guttenberg Mayor Wayne Zitt said that a proposed ban on cannabis businesses, which the board of commissioners approved on first reading Monday, is effectively a placeholder that will give the town more flexibility later.
The small, densely packed town is “not conducive” for growing marijuana, Zitt said, but he is open to the possibility of a retailer opening someday.
“It’s definitely not a hard no,” Zitt said. “It’s just putting things in place because we don’t want anybody dictating to us what they’re going to do.”