ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS – Borough Council was unanimous in introducing an ordinance at Thursday night’s council meeting that bans all recreational cannabis businesses in town, at least until the state hands down its regulations on the various types of businesses that can be associated with the drug. Public hearing on the ordinances is set for the next meeting Aug. 12.
The move enables the governing body to have control of what types of cannabis business would be permitted within the borough, but gives them the opportunity to make that decision once they have all the regulations set by the state and all the necessary information about it to make that decision.
Approving any uses for cannabis at this point would mandate those approved uses could not be altered for five years, Borough Administrator Adam Hubeny pointed out to a council which had also already reviewed all regulations and kept abreast of all laws and the fact the final state laws have not yet been established.
The borough joined approximately 70 per cent of the towns and boroughs throughout the state who have banned marijuana businesses until the regulations are made know. Their action was similar to adjacent Middletown’s action, Hazlet, Asbury Park, Holmdel and several other Monmouth County towns, but differed from neighboring Highlands, where the council by a majority vote approved a marijuana store for either the Bay Avenue or the Route 36 business district.
Should the governing body not take action to ban all types of business prior to Aug. 21, they would then be required to enable whatever business they had approved to remain in place and not be altered for five years. However, by banning these businesses before the full state laws are enacted and made known still gives a local government the opportunity to enact later legislation to establish any or all of the several different types of businesses which are allowed under the code.
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Many towns have been highly critical of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission created by Governor Murphy, which has been silent on state mandates on marijuana, including where they can open. Many towns have opted to reject any businesses until the state mandates on such questions as distance from schools, parks, houses of worship, or other locations are established. The NJ League of Municipalities has pointed out that towns have until Aug. 21 to enact legislation to ban or face the fact they could not take action for another five years. However, in banning businesses now, towns reserve the right to amend their ordinance any time after the Regulatory Commission hands down its laws.
In response to residents who called for different actions at the meeting, and with several council members from both political parties pointing out their reasons for introducing the ordinance, Administrator Adam Hubeny stressed that while 73 per cent of the voters approved the legalization of cannabis, establishing where it would be grown, sold, distributed, and trucked were all different issues that had to be addressed with sufficient knowledge and understanding.
Councilman Steve Boracchia, who has some personal experience in the cannabis business in California, urged the public to keep an open mind and let the governing body have all the facts before taking action. Councilman Lori Hohenleitner , who has worked with Boracchia on the issue, assured the residents that the ordinance does not take “anything off the table,” and also urged patience in allowing the governing body to do the right thing when all the information is known. Hubeny added that “safety measures need to be addressed, and the issue cannot be rushed into without examining all aspects.