EAST BRUNSWICK–The Township Council introduced an ordinance to accept various revisions made by the Planning Board pertaining to marijuana businesses within the municipality of East Brunswick.
Township Attorney Michael Baker said the state law requires that every time a municipality adopts a zoning ordinance, it has to first send that ordinance to the Planning Board for review and comments. Then it returns to the council.
Baker said the council adopted this ordinance two weeks ago and referred it to the board. The board met last week and recommended a few minor changes to the ordinance, cleaning it up in one section by deleting 11 words, which he concurred with and recommended to the board’s attorney.
With medical marijuana facilities having to be located 1,000 feet away from a public school, Baker said another revision the board requested adds that these facilities also be located 1,000 feet away from any private school, preschool, daycare facility or school associated with the house of worship.
In relation to adult use recreational marijuana, in 2020, New Jersey voters approved Public Question No. 1, which amended the New Jersey Constitution to allow for the legalization of a controlled form of marijuana called cannabis for adults at least 21 years of age.
On Feb. 22, Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance and Marketplace Modernization Act, which legalizes the recreational use of marijuana by adults 21 years of age older, and establishes a comprehensive regulatory and licensing scheme for commercial recreational adult use cannabis operations, use and possession.
What this ordinance does, Baker said, is gives the township time to find out what the cannabis commission is going to develop in terms of rules and regulations.
“It is not taking a position with regard to whether we should or should not have any recreational marijuana uses in town,” Baker said. “It simply is confirming that you can have medical marijuana uses in certain limited medical marijuana sales in certain limited areas that has been on the books for probably five years.”
Baker said this gives the township time to wait for the state commission that’s involved in the regulations to develop those regulations.
“[Due to] the board sending back the regulations, if the council wishes to accept those regulations, there should be a motion to amend to accept the planning board’s regulations,” Baker said. “We then need a second and because there will no longer be a second reading, it would just be a first reading. There would not be a public hearing on this … instead the public hearing would be on our first live meeting on July 12. … There’ll be a motion to amend the ordinance to accept the revisions.”
With an unanimous vote, the council approved amending the ordinance to accept the revisions made by the board relating to medical marijuana businesses within the township on June 28 during the council meeting via video conference.
The second and final reading is scheduled for July 12 in-person at the municipal court, located at 1 Civic Center Dr.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, some residents voiced their acceptance and disapproval towards the council potentially voting to allow recreational marijuana businesses with the township.
“Medical marijuana is fine. … My husband who died of bone cancer had access to the [dispensary] in Cranbury, New Jersey, but if we’re talking about the recreational use of cannabis, we don’t have to open up doors to that stuff. We do not. Why do you think that the State of New Jersey liquor licenses are regulated and there were so many and they’re precious to get? … Let us speak of the residents of East Brunswick, let us not allow this in our town, period,” resident Camille Clark said.
Resident and Republican Township Council Candidate David Herrera said he believes there are many benefits to medical cannabis; however, he asked members of the council to carefully consider allowing recreational marijuana establishments with the township.
“It’s not something that we can opt into later … it is something that we cannot opt out for five years. So I implore … council members … as somebody who has four years in sobriety understands what recreational drugs do to families, what it does to communities, what it does to its constituents [and] what it does to the residents of the town,” Herrera said. “The tax dollars are not there. The last concern of the town council right now should be how to create more tax revenue. We should be talking about how we’re going to make East Brunswick a better town.”
Resident Shannon Christie said she is a medical marijuana user due to her suffering from chronic pain.
“We should be known for our farm towns. As we all know marijuana is a plant. Also, with that being said, we have people who are coming here for our doctors [and] for our pharmacies. Why would they not be going to get their other medicine from our farms?” Christie said. “That is the other thing that they would be doing because people who get clean medicine, they want clean food. So, we would be keeping people in our community. We wouldn’t be keeping people shopping in our local businesses. We would be people keeping people here longer. That’s what we want.”
Resident Alexander Spielman said that personally he is for the usage of medical marijuana, but he also believes that the council needs to bring this forward to the township in some form of referendum. It is a major decision and is also a long lasting situation.
“The only thing I really want the council to consider was for this to be brought up for the town due to its wide ranging effects, and if there is going to be a tax that there will be some form of compensation for people who are actually using it for their medical use,” Spielman said.
“[Also], possibly the reinvesting in mental health and people who are dealing with substance abuse so that their money can be used to help those who were dealing with the high tax law, the high cost of dealing with attaining sobriety and just the general struggles of dealing with substance abuse,” he said.
For more information, visit www.eastbrunswick.org/AgendaCenter.
Contact Vashti Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org.