The Vernon Township Council has decided to permit four types of cannabis commerce.
The ordinance that the council unanimously introduced on on June 28 will allow cultivators, manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors to do business in the township, but it does not permit cannabis shops.
Mayor Howard Burrell asked the council to rethink banning retail sales. He said the limited number of thoroughly vetted and licensed cannabis retail establishments can be restricted by ordinance to locations outside of the Town Center.
Council President Harry Shortway suggested putting cannabis retail sales on the ballot for the voters to decide.
Last November, more than 70 percent of Vernon Township voters supported the statewide proposition to legalize marijuana.
Jennifer Lubliner, who chairs Vernon’s Economic Development Committee (EDC), said the township shouldn’t impose any restrictions on cannabis business. She said profits have so far surpassed all estimates by either double or triple and could bring New Jersey towns from $20,000 to $50,000 in added revenue every month.
She said a marijuana dispensary is no different than a bar or liquor store.
“I believe this is a business decision and not a morality issue,” Lubliner said. “If you have a moral objection to cannabis use, that is something you should hold to your family and not something you should apply to everyone else in the town or business or industry.”
She said the EDC is drafting a letter to the council in support of cannabis shops.
Resident Scott Ghysels said a dispensary would benefit Vernon. He said he saw one near Boston that was very well-run and compared it to a bank operation.
Resident Matt Conway said he voted against legalization.
“I can’t help but see Vernon is turning to legalized drugs to save itself,” he said.
Shortway said marijuana is already accessible to teenagers. He said dispensaries should be strictly regulated, with marijuana use treated the same as the use of alcohol.
“Marijuana is here, and recreational use is not going away,” he said.
Township attorney Josh Zielinski said the main point is whether the township will regulate cannabis at all.
“If you don’t by the Aug. 21 deadline, it’s allowed for five years and you can’t do anything at all,” Zielinski said.
He said he believed the township would be able to change its regulations during the five-year window.
Burrell said the licenses are expensive and not easy to get, and must be renewed every year.
He said prohibiting cannabis businesses will not prevent township residents from going elsewhere to get it and will send tax dollars that could benefit to other municipalities instead.