NORTH BRUNSWICK – Municipal officials in North Brunswick moved to permit all six licenses of recreational, adult-use cannabis in town with no current restrictions.
Council President Carlo Socio and Councilwoman Amanda Guadagnino voted “no,” while Council Members Ralph Andrews, Bob Davis, Dr. Will Lopez and Rajesh Mehta voted “yes” during a special council meeting held on Aug. 5.
Socio said he was “really torn” because he knows the ballot question to legalize marijuana in the State of New Jersey was passed in November, but stating “it’s never been my thing” he said he voted “no” on Election Day.
In North Brunswick, 11,307 voters supported the legalization of adult-use marijuana, while 5,914 residents voted “no.”
Socio said he understands there is revenue to be made, but he doesn’t know if the revenue counteracts any possible negative effects.
He said he is also concerned about what the final formalities of the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission will be.
On July 26, Township Attorney Ronald Gordon provided three options for council members to consider, which either permitted the licenses as a whole, or delineated certain areas of the township where businesses could be located.
The chosen option on Aug. 5 permits the operation of all six cannabis licensed businesses – retail, delivery, wholesaler, manufacturer, cultivator and distributor – by amending the municipal code and by creating new Chapter 140 entitled, “Cannabis, Licensed Businesses” and new Chapter 308 entitled “Establishment of Cannabis Transfer Tax and User Tax” through Ordinance 12-11.
Municipalities are required to adopt an ordinance by Aug. 21, either allowing or prohibiting any or all of the cannabis licenses, or else the state will have control of the matter.
The decision to opt in is for a term of five years; any municipality that opts out could opt in at any time.
If a municipality opts in initially, but opts out after the initial timeframe, any cannabis licenses that had already been approved would be grandfathered in.
Prior to the vote, David Lewus of Franklin Township, who is a Ph.D. candidate at Rutgers University, said that he hopes to start a cultivation business in North Brunswick.
“These businesses can bring a lot of talent to the area, keep people from Rutgers specifically in the area, and bring a lot of taxes to town,” he said.
North Brunswick resident Jeff Lanza offered a different viewpoint, saying that he supports SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), but he cited Colorado having many issues with car accidents and DUIs. Colorado was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012.
“I feel like we’re inviting problems,” he said, calling it “risky.”
He is not opposed to medical marijuana use, he said. But he said township officials were rushing the decision on recreational marijuana.
“Why are we rushing to do this? … Why not ban it until the regs (regulations) are out?”
There was some debate over whether or not the police department supports the legalization of recreational marijuana. Andrews said Police Chief Joseph Battaglia is in favor of it, but Guadagnino cautioned that was a personal conversation, and no reports were officially provided to the council.
Battaglia could not be reached by press time.
At the end of the meeting, Socio said that “being that the ordinance passed, we are not done with this and now it moves to the stage of this going to the council and the planning and zoning boards to place this in the proper zone and what we believe to be the right places to be viable.”
Gordon had said there will be an additional process to implement the zoning process as to where cannabis businesses may operate, how many licenses would be issued and what restrictions would be put in place.
The council has about 45 days to move forward on this. Future meetings will be announced.
For updates, visit northbrunswicknj.gov
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