In a bid to control the growing number of dispensaries in New Jersey, the town of Sea Bright, a town in Monmouth County, New Jersey, has enacted a local ordinance that bans any new medical marijuana businesses from opening within the town. The ordinance, which was recently adopted by a 5-1 vote at a special meeting of the town council, states that a medical marijuana dispensary cannot be opened within a town that has a population of more than 8,000.
For the past six months, the town of Egg Harbor Township, NJ has seen a rise in marijuana-related businesses operating within its borders. It’s a good thing, too, considering the federal government has outlawed the plant. But the townsfolk are concerned that the influx of dispensaries is driving away tourists who flock to the shore town for its world-class surfing. As of last week, the town was considering a measure that would keep out visitors who are merely driving through, known as “opt-outs.”
A handful of New Jersey towns are opting to ban adults from entering all marijuana establishments, but that will simply force people to buy on the black market. That’s not keeping out marijuana users, but keeping out everyone else who doesn’t want to be on the sidewalk outside a dispensary or grow house. It’s bad enough that these places are being targeted, but forcing them to operate outside of the law is wrong on so many levels.
New Jersey municipalities that choose to allow legal marijuana sales inside their boundaries don’t simply shut them down. They may deter locals from starting companies in the sector altogether.
The rules adopted for the recreational adult-use marijuana by the state Cannabis Regulatory Commission have been largely applauded, and a Wednesday online forum hosted by the Stockton University Cannabis & Hemp Research Initiative was on different.
However, this does not imply that participants were unconcerned about the industry’s debut, in part because of the potential limitations on entry-level “microbusinesses” posed by both state regulations and the preemptive resistance of so many towns and localities.
Michael McQueeny of Foley Hoag LLP, a cannabis attorney, said it’s a key issue he’s addressed with mayors who have chosen out of permitting legal marijuana sales, which accounts for about two-thirds of the state’s towns.
“And I’ve always advised them: Realize that when you opt out, even with a micro-business exemption, all you’re doing is punishing your people, your very folks who may have voted 67 percent or more in support of something,” McQueeny said.
At least 63 percent of towns in New Jersey have opted out as of two weeks earlier. Some people claimed they had the ability to alter their thoughts. Eighty percent of locations where the League of Municipalities had knowledge of their marijuana status had opted out.
The state’s regulations don’t specify a size restriction for microbusinesses, but they can’t be larger than 2,500 square feet or employ more than 10 people.
Many people are thrilled about the micro-licenses, said to Rob Mejia, an adjunct professor of cannabis studies at Stockton University, and they should be since it offers tiny businesses an opportunity to establish themselves. However, he claims that since so many locations have opted out, it is difficult for some to participate.
“You must be a resident of your township or a neighboring municipality if you are operating a microbusiness or want a microbusiness license,” Mejia added. “However, there are no micro-licenses available to me where I am.”
Some individuals have expressed optimism that there is a workaround if at least 51 percent of persons mentioned on an application come from an eligible municipality, according to Faye Coleman, CEO of Pure Genesis LLC.
“When you look at it, you’ll see that it mentions both owners and workers. Are you in effect lawful as you go ahead with that application if you plan to recruit six of those ten workers from that community?” Coleman remarked.
According to McQueeny, state law requires 51 percent ownership, officials, or workers, but the approved rules use the word “and” rather than “or,” which may eliminate any such gap.
“This is where we say words matter as attorneys, right?” McQueeny explained.
“Did you do it on purpose? Was it a deliberate act of omission? I’m not sure, but it’s a significant difference that may affect a lot of microbusinesses,” he added.
When the state issues the license application or an accompanying question-and-answer guide, McQueeny said he’ll be interested to see how it’s written.
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