ENGLISHTOWN – In a split vote, Borough Council members have taken action to prohibit the operation of cannabis businesses in Englishtown.
On July 28, council members voted 3-2 to adopt an ordinance that will prohibit all cannabis establishments, distributors and delivery services from operating in Englishtown. The ordinance amends the municipal code to add cannabis businesses as prohibited uses.
The delivery of cannabis items and/or related supplies to Englishtown addresses by a delivery service that is based outside the borough will be permitted.
Council members Maryanne Krawiec, Eric Mann and Cindy Robilotti voted “yes” on a motion to adopt the ordinance and prohibit the cannabis businesses in the community.
Councilmen Daniel Francisco and Dan Marter voted “no” on the motion.
Councilmen Gregory Wojyn was absent from the meeting.
The council’s action follows 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 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.
According to Englishtown’s 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 municipalities to prohibit the operation of cannabis businesses within their borders. The prohibition must be adopted by Aug. 22, otherwise, cannabis businesses will be permitted in the municipality for a five-year period.
Mayor Thomas Reynolds, who only would have voted on the ordinance in the event of a tie vote among the council members, emphasized that the prohibition was being put forth in Englishtown because of the state-imposed deadline the governing body was facing to take action on the issue.
Reynolds noted that the ordinance does not ban the use of cannabis in Englishtown and he said the new prohibition on cannabis businesses operating in the borough could be reviewed in the future.
“If you (council members) vote (cannabis businesses) down now, you have all the time in the world to get all the data we need to make an informed decision here,” Reynolds said. “I would rather look at it from having the most informed scenario where we don’t make a mistake because if you make a mistake you will have five years that you are stuck with (the decision).
“I think it is prudent as the chief executive officer of this municipality to look at the rules, to take action that protects us, and we can always come back in three to five months,” the mayor said.
“This is going to be a very controversial thing because everyone I looked at, except for a few (towns), have voted it down. I have talked to other mayors and they have the same issue.
“Let’s review it, see who does it right and if they do it right and there are no major issues, then we can come back and adopt (a new ordinance). There is nothing here stopping any resident in Englishtown from getting marijuana because the law says you can have marijuana and if you get it medically, you can get it anywhere,” Reynolds said.
However, Francisco found that the council members had sufficient time to review the regulations regarding cannabis businesses and to voice concerns. He said the regulations were publicly available since late February.
Francisco said in the time since the regulations were posted, specific concerns have not been expressed toward them.
“This was posted six months ago and we keep speaking about what we don’t know,” he said. “I am curious to hear what we are unsure about in the regulation.
“People have had six months to read it, we have had six months to talk about it and I have yet to hear one person say which regulation they are not sure about. The only people whose opinions I actually know on this data are Eric’s because we spoke about it before.
“I don’t really know where everyone else stands, but we have had six months to discuss, we would have another four months if we did this in November. Why wouldn’t we do that and put that to the public?” Francisco said.
Francisco supported having a referendum in the borough so residents could express if they want any of the six types of cannabis businesses that may be licensed in New Jersey to be permitted to operate in Englishtown.
Reynolds, citing low voter turnout in municipal elections, said he believed sending a survey to residents’ homes would be a more efficient way of determining residents’ views on the matter.
No other elected officials spoke on the cannabis ordinance before it was adopted in a 3-2 vote.