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Colts Neck officials consider banning growth, sale of marijuana

COLTS NECK – Municipal officials are weighing the adoption of an ordinance that would make the sale of marijuana and/or associated paraphernalia, as well as the growth and manufacture of marijuana, illegal in Colts Neck.

Residents will have their say on the issue when a public hearing on the ordinance is held at the Township Committee meeting July 19. Committee members may adopt the ordinance following the public hearing.

The ordinance states that Colts Neck “desires to ensure that such facilities that dispense marijuana or cultivate marijuana are not within a quarter-mile of a school, church, park, commercial business or any zone permitting single-family residential as a permitted principal use.”

It states that “there is no area in the township which can safely house a business selling, manufacturing or growing marijuana and/or the paraphernalia that facilitates the use of such marijuana.”

The proposed law goes on to state, “The Township Committee finds it is in the best interest of the township and general public welfare to ban all businesses selling marijuana and/or paraphernalia facilitating the use of marijuana, and the growing or manufacturing of marijuana within the township.”

The language the ordinance proposes to add to the existing municipal code states that “the growing, cultivating, farming, manufacturing, distribution, or selling of medical and/or recreational marijuana and/or paraphernalia that facilitates its use shall be a prohibited principal, accessory or conditional use.”

Township Attorney Meghan Bennett-Clark said the ordinance does not ban the use of Cannabidiol (CBD oil) because it is already legal.

Cannabidiol is a cannabis compound that has significant medical benefits, but does not make people feel “stoned” and can counteract the psychoactivity of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), according to projectcbd.org

During a discussion of the ordinance upon its introduction at a recent meeting, committee members expressed concern about individuals using loopholes to grow marijuana on preserved farmland.

“There could be a loophole we face down the road that one could be able to raise marijuana,” Mayor J.P. Bartolomeo said. “It isn’t raised like one raises corn, it has to be raised in a structure. It would be contained, climate controlled and more.

“Take farmland we have preserved. The only way to grow (marijuana) there is to build a structure on a preserved property we paid for. We are going to follow this closely and we will put up the fights we need to put up because it would be a shame if we preserved land and get back-doored on a right to farm provision,” Bartolomeo said.

Committeeman Michael Viola said, “It’s unfortunate we preserve farmland and these structures can potentially pop up on these properties … It’s out of our culture, it’s not what we look for here in Colts Neck. I support the ordinance. As for the future, I would be concerned about the preserved farmland as to whether or not there is some (way) we can take (the possibility of preserved land being used to grow marijuana) off the table.”

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