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Howell officials will hold discussion about cannabis on Sept. 14

HOWELL – The members of the Howell Township Council will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. Sept. 14 to discuss a cannabis ordinance they recently adopted.

One hour has been established for the discussion that will precede the council’s regular meeting at 7 p.m.

Earlier this summer, Mayor Theresa Berger, Deputy Mayor Thomas Russo and Councilwoman Evelyn O’Donnell voted “yes” on a motion to adopt an ordinance that prohibits all six types of cannabis businesses that may be licensed to operate in New Jersey from operating in Howell.

Councilwoman Pamela Richmond and Councilman John Bonevich were absent from the meeting at which the cannabis ordinance was adopted.

The ordinance prohibits the following businesses from operating in Howell: cannabis cultivator, cannabis manufacturer, cannabis wholesaler, cannabis retailer, cannabis distributor and cannabis delivery service.

Although the council members have prohibited a cannabis delivery service from being based in Howell, by law they may not ban the delivery of cannabis and/or cannabis supplies to addresses in Howell by a delivery service that is licensed in another municipality.

Prior to the vote to adopt the cannabis ordinance, a public hearing was conducted and some residents criticized the legislation as being a missed opportunity for Howell’s elected officials to set precedent and standards for cannabis businesses in the municipality.

The issue of cannabis businesses will be on the table once again on Sept. 14 and O’Donnell said the special meeting “is basically an exchange of ideas between council members and largely will be based on rules the state will provide to us involving all uses of cannabis in terms of growing and selling … as with distribution.

“My understanding is the public will … share their concerns and questions with us and my hope is to take that information from the public, as well as the exchange between our professionals and (legal) counsel, and have another meeting in the very near future to further interpret and digest all of the information,” the councilwoman said.

O’Donnell said she proposed asking various individuals to share their thoughts about cannabis at previous council meetings.

“I had asked for (a representative of) the police department, for (Howell Municipal Alliance coordinator) Christa Riddle, for the local school administration and hopefully health officials with a distinct cannabis background to be part of our fact-sharing meeting as well.

“My hope is to have another meeting with everyone involved should they not be involved at our first meeting as one hour (on Sept. 14) may not be adequate to discuss all the necessary issues.

“I am hopeful we can begin an informative exchange so the council can come to the best decision for Howell” regarding the possibility of allowing cannabis businesses to operate in the township at some point, O’Donnell said.

Berger has previously said New Jersey “is not the first state that has done this (approve cannabis businesses), so there have to be best practices out there that we can take a look at.”

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