MILLTOWN – Borough officials will gauge public opinion with a non-binding ballot question in the November election on whether or not they are in favor of allowing recreational retail cannabis businesses along the highway commercial zones of Ryders Lane.
“The goal is to ascertain sentiment so we can revisit the issue of permitting cannabis businesses in the borough at a later date after public sentiment is gauged,” Borough Attorney Peter Vignuolo said, noting he has been familiarizing himself with the 162 pages of cannabis regulation established through the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
Borough officials held a pubic hearing to also gauge public opinion on Oct. 14 ahead of the non-binding referendum. Before the deadline to make a decision to allow or prohibit cannabis licenses, officials decided to prohibit both cannabis licenses – retail and medical – within the borough subject to revisiting it at a later date after the adoption of the regulatory commission.
Municipalities were required to adopt an ordinance by Aug. 21, either allowing or prohibiting any or all of the cannabis licenses, or else the state would 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.
Municipalities can get up to 2% in municipal tax for retail sales of cannabis.
The borough has discretion on how many businesses are allowed and the hours of operation.
There are no regulations of delivery of cannabis to one’s home.
The public must be 21 years old to enter a cannabis business.
The B4 and B5 highway commercial zones on Ryders Lane are currently not zoned for medical use, Vignuolo said when asked if the area would allow marijuana medical dispensaries.
Neighboring town North Brunswick moved to permit all six licenses of recreational, adult-use cannabis in town with no current restrictions, as of August.
Milltown candidates for council voiced their opinions on the issue during a debate on Oct. 20.
Republican candidate John Collins said he was not in favor of distribution centers in the borough. He said he was concerned of the non-binding factor of the ballot question.
Democratic incumbent Randy Farkas said the ballot question may be non-binding, but it’s the direction the council will go when the results are tabulated.
“It’s important for residents to have a voice heard,” he said. “Tax revenue will be minimal at best and there will be a limited number of licenses given out throughout the state. Surrounding towns have embraced this. We are going to sit back and wait until the legislation comes through and we will be guided what residents say.”
Republican candidate Richard Revolinsky said the issue is “a double-edged sword.”
“Personally I’m against it, but in the long run it’s up to the residents,” he said. “If they want it and they feel strongly about it, it’s not going to make me move out because where am I going to go? Go to another town that has three of them? By the time it is all said and done, there is going to be pot available everywhere. I think the governing body did a good job to get public opinion on this one.”
Democratic candidate David Potter said he is in agreement with the council for putting the issue as a question and having residents voice opinions so the council can make an educated opinion.
Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 2.