SOMERVILLE, NJ – Borough officials will join with local lawmakers throughout the state on April 5 for a virtual seminar hosted by the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission to learn more about the law legalizing marijuana and how it may affect the state’s 567 municipalities.
Borough Administrator/Clerk Kevin Sluka, Mayor Dennis Sullivan and other members of the Borough Council have registered.
New Jersey voters approved a referendum legalizing Cannabis in the November 2020 election by more than 70 percent; the local vote reflected that overwhelming majority, according to Sullivan.
Sluka said he received at least a half-dozen inquiries from people who said they were interested in learning more about opening a Cannabis dispensary soon after the November vote; he referred all calls to the NJCRC. There have been no other calls since then, he added.
On Feb. 22, 2021 Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law the Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act, which established the framework for a legal, adult-use cannabis industry in New Jersey and reform of criminal possession and sales offenses. The five-member NJCRC 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 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 gives each governing body until August to adopt laws regulating the sale of marijuana in their respective towns.
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).
Sluka said the borough’s Zoning Board will take the lead on deciding what to recommend to the Borough Council.
Bridgewater has already proposed a series of four ordinances that will make it illegal for any cannabis-based businesses to operate in the township, while in Jersey City, two wholesale operations have been given approval to cultivate cannabis for sale to the retail market.
Somerville has yet to discuss its options formally, according to Sluka.
“I have not heard of anyone being against it,” he said, adding that the 70 percent approval could dictate any actions the Borough Council takes.
“Obviously, politicians are supposed to represent the people,” he said.
“We do recognize, however that it we do nothing, the doors remain completely open,” he said. “We have the option to close the door completely, or to keep it partially open. The municipality will have to take some sort of action; I haven’t heard an absolute ‘no,” but it doesn’t seem like the floodgates are open, either.
“We have to be prepared to make a decision before August,” Sluka continued. “If there is to be an opportunity to open any sort of marijuana business, that will involve the zoning and other regulatory boards participating in the discussion; the more government involved, the longer it takes to get things in order.”