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Red Bank drafting guidelines for cannabis operations in town

RED BANK – Municipal officials in Red Bank are preparing legislation that is expected to establish the guidelines under which marijuana businesses would be permitted to operate in the borough.

The topic of marijuana businesses operating in Red Bank was discussed during a Borough Council workshop meeting on June 9.

The town’s elected representatives indicated they are in favor of permitting marijuana businesses to operate in Red Bank with certain operational guidelines in place.

“We have to come up with an ordinance that determines how strong we want to be or how loose we want to be with the regulations for cannabis operations,” said Shawna Ebanks, Red Bank’s director of community development.

An ordinance that will establish regulations for cannabis businesses in Red Bank is scheduled to be introduced by the Borough Council on July 21.

The Red Bank Planning Board is expected to review the ordinance during its meeting on Aug. 2.

The ordinance is expected to return before the council members on Aug. 18 for a public hearing and possible vote.

The potential action in Red Bank follows the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act, also known as A-21, which was approved by state legislators in February after New Jersey residents voted in 2020 to approve a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana.

The state legislation legalizes the recreational use (also known as adult use) of marijuana for certain adults, subject to state regulation; it decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana and hashish (a marijuana concentrate); and it removes marijuana as a Schedule I (high potential for abuse) drug.

By Aug. 21, municipal officials in every New Jersey municipality must decide whether cannabis businesses may operate within their borders.

If local officials in a municipality do not take action, marijuana businesses will be permitted to operate in that municipality for a five-year period.

Municipalities that do not prohibit the operation of cannabis businesses will be able to impose restrictions before the August deadline.

According to Borough Attorney Greg Cannon, municipalities that establish restrictions relating to marijuana will be able to loosen the restrictions during the five-year period, but will not be able to tighten the restrictions.

“The legislative intent is (officials may) progressively allow more (businesses), but you can’t roll it back. If a municipality prohibits businesses after (initially) allowing them, any existing (businesses) are grandfathered in” and may continue to operate, Cannon said.

Mayor Pasquale Menna said Red Bank officials should control the regulation of cannabis businesses in the borough.

“I think we have to take action. To do nothing is almost an invitation for state action, which I prefer not to deal with. On the other hand, I don’t think we should prohibit (cannabis businesses), but I think we should regulate it,” the mayor said.

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