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Marlboro council members vote to prohibit cannabis businesses

MARLBORO – The members of the Marlboro Township Council have adopted an ordinance that prohibits all classes of cannabis businesses from being licensed in the municipality.

The ordinance was adopted by the council following a public hearing on July 15.

A motion was made to adopt the ordinance and council President Jeff Cantor, Vice President Scott Metzger, Councilwoman Randi Marder and Councilwoman Carol Mazzola voted “yes.”

Councilman Michael Scalea was absent from the meeting.

The only member of the public to speak about the ordinance was Dr. Alan Ao, a pharmacist and president of Plants and Prescriptions, a group focused on studying the benefits of medical marijuana and educating members of the public of its potential uses.

“I am disappointed there was no public forum to discuss the issue at hand. Unlike many things that come across this council and community, cannabis is still an extremely polarizing topic on multiple fronts.

“It needs to be addressed with facts, data, science, education and awareness of what a legalized cannabis industry might look like in this community. There is still a resounding stigma around cannabis consumption and uneducated populations that are stuck in the 1950s reefer madness era.

“I understand the timeline set forth by state law has made this a difficult decision, but without seeing the full set of rules and regulations laid out by the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission, I understand the decision may have been made as a wait-and-see approach until more guidance is available,” Ao said.

Following Ao’s remarks, Mayor Jonathan Hornik, who does not vote on the adoption of ordinances, said, “My personal view on marijuana is that it is legal in this state for recreational use and medical use and that’s fine.

“Marlboro residents are free to comply with the law and our police will do nothing that subverts the law. The decision to have cannabis businesses in your town is a local business decision and I for one believe the possible costs outweigh the benefits of having those businesses in town.

“While I am OK with everyone who wants to consume cannabis, from a zoning and policing perspective, I believe the costs of having those facilities in town outweigh the benefits bestowed upon the town having full knowledge of the (tax) percentage the town is entitled to on sales,” the mayor said.

Marder commented on the issue, saying, “I have been working with the municipal alliance for 14 years and my lack of support for putting marijuana businesses in town partially stems from the lack of ability to distinguish impaired drivers.

“Anybody getting high and getting into a car, there are very limited ways to evaluate their state of mind. Having that kind of business in town is a potential risk to our residents,” she said.

Ao responded to Marder and said, “Cannabis is in our communities right now and it would be ignorant of us to think otherwise. Residents will be consuming cannabis and potentially driving unsafely regardless of whether or not this council supports these businesses or not. Impaired drivers from drinking is still an ongoing issue right now.”

The ordinance Marlboro’s elected officials adopted states that the council members have “determined it is necessary and appropriate, and in the best interest of the health, safety and welfare of Marlboro’s residents and members of the public who visit, travel or conduct business in Marlboro to prohibit all classes of cannabis establishments, distributors or delivery licenses and services anywhere in Marlboro.”

The action in Marlboro 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, municipal 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 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.

Marlboro’s council members have voted not to issue any type of cannabis license. They may not, by law, prohibit the delivery of cannabis and/or cannabis supplies to Marlboro addresses by a delivery service that is licensed in another municipality.

Township Attorney Lou Rainone clarified that the ordinance the council adopted regarding cannabis businesses does not affect the potential issuance of a medical cannabis license that could be issued in the municipality.

Cantor said he wanted to work with Ao to help include minority individuals and military veterans through cultivation or sales of cannabis, whether inside or outside of Marlboro.

“I know there are benefits to medicinal marijuana. I have seen studies that showed its effects in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and the positive effects it has had by reducing the consumption of other narcotics and an alcohol consumption reduction. There are benefits for the medicinal use of the products,” Cantor said.

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