Lawmakers in New Jersey’s state legislature are continuing to work on legislation regarding the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state.
However, as of Nov. 23, legislation had stalled in Trenton, since voters approved the measure on the ballot during the Nov. 3 general election. The approved measure does not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2021.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced appointed members to the newly created Cannabis Regulatory Commission, three days after the approval from voters. The commission will regulate New Jersey’s medical marijuana marketplace and provide oversight to the soon-to-be-established recreational marijuana marketplace, according to state officials.
Cranbury’s Township Committee is one of many municipal governing bodies across the state awaiting the final points of legislation and further regulations from the commission.
Prior to the voter referendum question legalizing marijuana and the state legislature ironing out the fine points of legislation, Cranbury had adopted an ordinance in 2018 prohibiting the the establishment of any marijuana retail facility and sale of recreational marijuana, prior to any change in state law.
Current committee members have weighed in on the topic that is before state officials:
Mayor Matt Scott – “We have been thinking about it as a township committee. Voters in New Jersey overwhelmingly passed the mandate. We are following what the legislature is going to do,” he said. “Our township lawyer reached out to the township committee right after and stated that until the final bill comes out we won’t know how it is going to affect us.”
As far as retail recreational marijuana in Cranbury, Scott stated that the township still has the 2018 ordinance, which is not going anywhere.
“There is not going to be retail marijuana in town, which is fine. We have a very successful medical marijuana dispensary in Cranbury,” Scott said. “Most people who are going to be setting up shop to sell are not going to do it in an area where there is pushback. If a potential recreational marijuana grower came before the township committee and asked if we would reconsider the ordinance, I would be open to it. I am not completely opposed to it. I would want to hear what they had to say. I suspect that this scenario is highly unlikely.”
Deputy Mayor Mike Ferrante – “We do not know what the rules are going to be for the state; it is going to take time for the state to come up with that. We do have the 2018 ordinance on the books and it will be determined if that ordinance will be overruled by the state or not,” Ferrante said. “We have not had a conversation at the township committee level on what we are going to do beyond what the state may come up with regarding guidelines.”
He added that it is too early to tell and it would be a lot of speculation in trying to preempt or respectively understand what the state is going to do.
“I do not think it would be a good use of taxpayer funds to speculatively have our lawyers start talking about what specific guidance would be on this topic when the state has not even looked at it,” Ferrante said. “I have not even been to … where I can see what these facilities look like. I do not want to fear monger on what this will do to a community and think we should wait and do what is right for Cranbury.”
Township Committeewoman Evelyn Spann – “We have only met once since the question was passed. This has not yet been discussed on the township committee level. Township attorney Steven Goodell has been looking at what the law entails and means and logistics around the law,” she said.
Spann added given that Cranbury has a school on North Main Street, the township will be sensitive to the issue.
“We do have a medical marijuana dispensary in Cranbury, but not downtown. If approached by a potential scenario about a recreational marijuana retail facility/dispensary in the village commercial district given the proximity to the Cranbury School, I am a hard no,” she said. “I do not think it is in the best interest of our children and does not set a good example. If we are talking about the 7-Eleven convenience store on Route 130 potentially selling, that is their business, but the village commercial district downtown is different.”
Township Committeeman James Taylor – “We did pass the ordinance banning recreational sales and I would hope future township committees will maintain the ordinance. Mayor Matt Scott, at the Nov. 9 meeting, confirmed he felt it was settled and I think in so doing he recognized the negative overall impact on the community for which I applaud him,” he said.
Taylor added he would be strongly opposed to recreation marijuana facility operations occurring in town regardless of location (Village Commercial District, Highway Commercial and General Commercial zones).
“I could not imagine a situation where a store would be approved in the village given the proximity to the school, parks and new library. Further, our Municipal Alliance works very hard to discuss the dangers of drugs to our children and undoing the ordinance would undermine their efforts and place the committee in a hypocritical position,” he said. “If an adult resident wishes to purchase, then I am sure that same adult would be willing to get in their car and drive.”
Township Committeewoman Barbara Rogers – “I feel it’s too early to comment and we would need more information. There are rules and regulations for medicinal marijuana but these are still being worked on for recreational marijuana,” she said.