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Freehold Township officials ban cultivation, sale of marijuana

FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP – The Township Committee has taken action to maintain a prohibition of the cultivation, harvesting and sale of marijuana in Freehold Township, as well as banning underage use of the substance. At the same time, officials agreed to permit medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in the community.

On June 22, committee members adopted two ordinances related to the use of marijuana in Freehold Township.

The first ordinance adopted by the committee members will prohibit cannabis cultivators, cannabis delivery services, cannabis distributors, cannabis manufacturers, cannabis retailers and cannabis wholesalers from operating in Freehold Township.

Cannabis items and supplies will be permitted to be delivered in Freehold Township by a licensed cannabis delivery service that is based outside the municipality.

The ordinance will permit medical cannabis dispensaries to operate with or without an indoor consumption area on their premises. Outdoor on-site consumption areas are not permitted.

Medical cannabis dispensaries will only be permitted to operate in Freehold Township’s H-1 hospital zone, according to the ordinance.

Prior to adopting the ordinance, the committee passed a resolution acknowledging receipt and review of a report from the Planning Board, which found that the ordinance is consistent with the township’s master plan.

The second ordinance adopted by the committee members will prohibit the possession or consumption of cannabis items by underage individuals.

As stated in the ordinance, an individual must be 21 years old or older to legally use adult use marijuana (also referred to as recreational marijuana).

An individual under the age of 21 will be prohibited from possessing or consuming marijuana items on private property and on public property.

The Township Committee’s action 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 voters in 2020 approved a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana.

The state legislation legalizes the recreational 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.

Before adult use marijuana was legalized in New Jersey in 2021, the Township Committee adopted an ordinance in 2018 that banned the production and sale of marijuana in Freehold Township by amending the local land use ordinance.

The 2018 ordinance was adopted by the governing body following the inauguration of Gov. Phil Murphy, who said he would take action to legalize marijuana for adult use.

The first ordinance the committee adopted on June 22 was an amendment of the 2018 ordinance, repealing and replacing the provisions that were rendered void by the enactment of A-21 at the state level.

The second ordinance the committee adopted on June 22 created a new chapter in the municipal codebook entitled “Recreational Cannabis.”

Hugh Giordano, a representative with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, thanked the committee members for permitting medical cannabis dispensaries to operate in Freehold Township, but asked the township’s elected representatives to be less restrictive toward the marijuana industry.

“These jobs are highly educated,” Giordano said. “These folks have degrees in chemistry and botany. Even in the retail side, we have pharmacists working there. I suggest coming to (an operating dispensary) where you can see how it is operated and the security (in place). I am happy to say these facilities hire former police officers because we want to use the best and brightest in all forms of the industry.”

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