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Manalapan officials will not issue licenses to cannabis businesses

MANALAPAN – With the township attorney stating that the action was being taken “for the time being,” the Manalapan Township Committee has voted to adopt an ordinance that prohibits the operation of any class of cannabis business in the community.

The ordinance was introduced on June 16 and a public hearing was held on July 14 at the Manalapan Municipal Complex.

Before opening the public hearing, Mayor Jack McNaboe asked Township Attorney Roger McLaughlin to provide an overview of the ordinance.

“Action is being taken for the time being to prohibit all (six) classes of (cannabis) licenses. If the committee members prohibit all of the classes now, they can take action any time they want to permit any class of license,” McLaughlin said.

“We are awaiting the issuance of state regulations and (waiting to see) how they will work. This leaves open the possibility the Township Committee can reconsider (tonight’s action) … when the regulatory scheme becomes clear,” the attorney said.

McNaboe said, “I cannot come up with (a projection of revenue) as to how (issuing cannabis business licenses) would help Manalapan.”

The mayor said the township would incur expenses in allowing such businesses, but added, “We certainly could revisit this (decision) down the road.”

During the public hearing, Hugh Giordano spoke on behalf of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 152, which represents individuals who are employed in cannabis businesses. Giordano said the cannabis businesses “create good jobs.”

A Manalapan resident who described himself as a 100% disabled military veteran who has post-traumatic stress disorder said the use of cannabis “saved my life a lot.”

A representative of the cannabis industry said additional education is needed on the issue, but he acknowledged the deadline the state imposed on municipalities to make a decision on licensing cannabis businesses was tight.

Following the public hearing, McNaboe made a motion to adopt the ordinance. The motion was seconded by Committeeman Barry Jacobson.

On a vote to adopt the ordinance, McNaboe, Jacobson, Deputy Mayor Susan Cohen, Committeeman Eric Nelson and Committeewoman Mary Ann Musich voted “yes.”

The action in Manalapan 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 use of recreational marijuana (also called adult use 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, officials in every New Jersey municipality must decide whether any or all of the state’s approved cannabis businesses will be permitted to operate within their borders. If they do not act, automatic zoning will permit the operation of cannabis businesses.

Municipal officials in New Jersey have the option to issue six types of licenses related to cannabis:

• Cannabis Cultivator license, for facilities involved in growing and cultivating cannabis;

• Cannabis Manufacturer license, for facilities involved in the manufacturing, preparation and packaging of cannabis items;

• Cannabis Wholesaler license, for facilities involved in obtaining and selling cannabis items for later resale by other licensees;

• Cannabis Distributor license, for businesses involved in transporting cannabis plants in bulk from one licensed cultivator to another licensed cultivator, or cannabis items in bulk from any type of licensed cannabis business to another;

• Cannabis Retailer license, for locations at which cannabis items and related supplies are sold to consumers;

• Cannabis Delivery license, for businesses providing courier services for consumer purchases that are fulfilled by a licensed cannabis retailer in order to make deliveries of the purchased items to a consumer; this service would include the ability of a consumer to make a purchase directly through the cannabis delivery service which would be presented by the delivery service for fulfillment by a retailer and then delivered to a consumer.

Manalapan officials chose not issue any type of cannabis license. By law, they may not prohibit the delivery of cannabis and/or cannabis supplies to addresses in Manalapan by a delivery service that is licensed in another municipality.

According to the ordinance, if Manalapan officials failed to take action by Aug. 21, then “for a period of five years thereafter, the growing, cultivating, manufacturing, selling and reselling of cannabis and cannabis items shall be permitted uses in all industrial zones, and the retail selling of cannabis items to consumers shall be a conditional use in all commercial and retail zones.

“At the conclusion of the initial and any subsequent five-year period following a failure to enact local regulations or prohibitions, the municipality shall again have 180 days to adopt an ordinance regulating or prohibiting cannabis businesses, but any such ordinance would be prospective only and would not apply to any cannabis business already operating within the municipality,” the ordinance states.

Manalapan officials said they determined that “due to present uncertainties regarding the potential future impacts that allowing one or more classes of cannabis business might have on New Jersey municipalities in general, and on the Manalapan in particular, it is at this time necessary and appropriate, and in the best interest of the health, safety and welfare of the township and its residents, to amend the township’s zoning regulations to prohibit all manner of marijuana-related land use and development within the geographic boundaries of the township.”

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