Keyport council moves to prohibit cannabis businesses in town

KEYPORT – Borough Council members are taking action to prohibit the operation of cannabis businesses in Keyport while guidance from the state is pending.

During a meeting on July 6, council members introduced an ordinance that will, if adopted, prohibit all cannabis businesses from operating in Keyport. As part of the prohibition, the ordinance amends the borough code to establish cannabis businesses as prohibited uses in all zoning districts.

The ordinance states that municipal officials intend to lift the prohibition when they receive regulatory guidance from the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission that they deem adequate.

A public hearing on the ordinance has been scheduled for the council’s Aug. 17 meeting. The governing body may adopt the ordinance that evening.

The Borough Council’s action follows the enactment of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act, also known as A-21, which was passed by state legislators in February after New Jersey voters in 2020 approved a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana.

The legislation legalizes the recreational use (also known as adult use) of marijuana by 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.

According to the Keyport ordinance, A-21 established six marketplace classes of licensed marijuana businesses: cultivator, manufacturer, wholesaler, distributor, retailer and delivery.

As noted in the ordinance, the state legislation allows municipal officials to prohibit the operation of marijuana businesses within the town’s borders. The prohibition must be adopted by Aug. 21, otherwise, marijuana businesses will be permitted in the municipality for a five-year period.

According to the ordinance, the Borough Council is prohibiting the cannabis businesses due to uncertainties governing the licensing process at the state and local levels, and due to the limited amount of time they have to establish appropriate zoning regulations for a new class of commercial uses of property in Keyport.

The council members believe it is in the best interest of the health, safety and welfare of residents to await the adoption of regulatory guidance from the Cannabis Regulatory Commission before permitting such businesses, according to the ordinance.

The ordinance states that the governing body wishes to establish land use regulations and licensing standards for regulated cannabis businesses in Keyport upon receipt of the adequate regulatory guidance, which is anticipated later this year.

As noted in the ordinance, the council’s proposed action regarding cannabis businesses in town does not affect the legality of adult use marijuana by individuals over the age of 21 in Keyport.

By law, the council may not prohibit the delivery of cannabis and/or cannabis supplies to addresses in Keyport from a delivery service that is based in another municipality.