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Hopewell Township Committee presented with breakdown of new marijuana laws; must decide whether to opt-in or opt-out

As communities continue to make sense of the new recreational and decriminalization marijuana laws, the Hopewell Township Committee received presentations from township attorneys and the police director on how the laws directly impact the township.

During the Township Committee meeting on March 15, attorney Scott Miccio, of law firm Parker McCay, informed the committee on the legalization of cannabis and what the township would need to do as part of its next steps.

“What the state has done with the legislation is give each municipality the option to opt-in or opt-out of any aspect of the legalization of recreational cannabis use. I am going to describe the six types of licenses first that the municipality may either opt-in or opt-out,” Miccio said. “The six types of licenses that are going to be rewarded ultimately by the newly created Cannabis Regulatory Commission are cultivator (grower), manufacturer (processor), wholesaler, distributor, retailer and and delivery service.”

The municipality can pick and choose which of the six licenses would be allowed in Hopewell Township. However, the municipality cannot deny delivery services to come through to residents.

“You do not need to allow them to set up shop necessarily in the Township of Hopewell, but you do need to allow delivery services to come to residents of Hopewell if they so choose,” Miccio said. “To prohibit any of the licenses the township would have to pass an ordinance by Aug. 21. Again, that is six months after the legislation and there are consequences if the municipality fails to adopt an ordinance by then.”

Miccio explained that specifically cultivators, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors will automatically become permitted uses in all of the industrial zones of the municipality.

“The retail – the selling of cannabis – would be a conditional use in the commercial or retail zones. The only reason this would be relevant if the township chooses not to adopt an ordinance,” Miccio said. “If you do choose to adopt an ordinance the township would be able to designate where each one of those could go and how many hours of operation to a certain extent. The municipality does have a lot of control over this.”

If the Hopewell Township Committee did fail to adopt an ordinance the municipality would then be prohibited from passing such an ordinance for five years.

“Cultivators, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors would be able to move into the municipality and you would not be able to be banned for another five years at this point,” he said.

There are no limits to municipalities to when they can opt-in if they choose to opt-out by Aug. 21.

When it comes to the tax portion of cannabis, Hopewell Township is allowed to adopt an ordinance that would impose a transport tax on the sale of cannabis and cannabis items. The maximum permissible tax for sales by cultivators, manufacturers and retailers is 2%; for cannabis wholesalers, it is 1%.

“There is not a lot of additional information in the legislation on how to go about collecting those taxes. Some of this information can be forthcoming in the regulations that come out, but for now that is good to be aware that is an option the municipality would have,” Miccio said. “It would not be required to tax the transfer or the sale of cannabis or cannabis items.”

Miccio went on to additionally spotlight the legislation change to how municipalities can drug test employees.

“No employer shall refuse to hire or employ any person or take any adverse employment action against any employee because that person uses cannabis,” he said. “So just because an employer may suspect that someone may be using cannabis in their off hours you cannot use that as a reason to drug test them and cannot use that as a reason to take any adverse employment action against them.”

The law currently does allow a possible test if there is a reasonable suspicion of an employee at work and performing work duties.

“There is a procedure that has to be worked through in order to do that,” Miccio said.

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