Fair Haven officials prohibit cannabis businesses in borough

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FAIR HAVEN – Borough Council members have taken action to prohibit the operation of cannabis businesses in Fair Haven.

On Aug. 16, council members adopted an ordinance that will allow Fair Haven to opt out of having the state regulate cannabis businesses within its borders and deem all recreational cannabis businesses as prohibited uses.

The ordinance will also prohibit the consumption of cannabis in public places and prohibit underage (under 21) cannabis possession.

The Borough Council’s action followed 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.

A-21 established six marketplace classes of licensed marijuana businesses in New Jersey: cultivator, manufacturer, wholesaler, distributor, retailer and delivery.

As noted in the ordinance, the state legislation allowed municipal officials to prohibit the operation of cannabis businesses in their town. The prohibition had to be adopted by Aug. 21, otherwise, cannabis businesses would have been permitted in the municipality for a five-year period.

Prior to the state law’s passage, Borough Council members adopted an ordinance in 2018 that prohibited cannabis businesses from operating in Fair Haven. The ordinance that was before the council this month amended the language of the 2018 ordinance to acknowledge A-21.

While all cannabis establishments, distributors and delivery services will be prohibited from operating in Fair Haven, the local legislation does not prohibit the delivery of cannabis items and/or related supplies to addresses in Fair Haven by a licensed cannabis delivery service that is based and initiated outside of the borough.

The legislation deems it unlawful for an individual to consume cannabis in public places, such as any public highway, public street, public sidewalk, public parking lot or lot, playground, park or other property owned by Fair Haven. Individuals who violate this regulation will be subject to a civil penalty of up to $200.

Consuming cannabis on school property will be deemed a disorderly persons offense, according to the ordinance, which carries a minimum $100 fine and a maximum fine of $2,000.

If individuals under the age of 21 possess cannabis, they will receive a $100 civil penalty for a first offense, a $200 civil penalty for a second offense, and a $350 fine for a third and subsequent offenses, according to the ordinance.

Individuals of legal age are not permitted to possess more cannabis than is legally allowed (up to 6 ounces); violating this regulation will result in a $250 fine for first-time offenders and a $350 fine for second-time and subsequent offenders.

In the ordinance, municipal officials wrote, “The mayor and council are concerned about the health and safety problems posed by the legalization of cannabis products, the potential for abuse, and especially, any use by minors and/or operators of motor vehicles.

“The mayor and council believe that opting out of the act and renewing and augmenting the borough’s prior prohibition on recreational cannabis within the borough will help address these concerns and be in the best interests of the borough’s citizens.”