While New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory Committee irons out the rules for the emerging recreational marijuana industry, municipalities around the state have been given until Aug. 21 to decide whether to opt in or out of the sale.
There is still much that is unknown about the new industry. But Somerville is one town that has already decided to opt in. Just over 70% of the town’s residents voted to approve the public question to decriminalize marijuana in November.
“Obviously, it was the great interest of our particular community to support the decriminalization and the eventual marketing of cannabis,” says Somerville Mayor Dennis Sullivan.
Sullivan says that he wants his town to be ahead of the game and that the town is already drafting ordinances on how to manage the recreational marijuana industry.
“We charged our administration to explore, go on webinars with the state, talk to the regulation commission, talk to other towns, figure out what steps we could take to put ourselves in the best position to control the ultimate fate of cannabis here in Somerville,” Sullivan says.
While other towns are choosing to opt out, they do have the option to opt back in later. However, the rules set by the Cannabis Regulatory Committee have yet to be clarified and may not necessarily lay out rules for towns specifically.
“When you opt back in, you may be subject to whatever default rules the CRC has set forth,” says cannabis attorney Chirali Patel. “What they’re not realizing is, waiting for the CRC to come out with regulations, isn’t going to tell you anything more about your town. Those rules and regulations are actually going to be about the application process and things dealing with the industry side. It’s not going to be about towns and their ordinances.”
Whether towns are opting in or out, they’re using this time to draft ordinances. For towns opting in, the ordinances are laying out guidelines of how they would like to handle the sale of recreational marijuana.
“Towns actually have the ability to dictate what facilities they even want. They can opt out of one license type or any license type. It doesn’t just have to be a total opt out,” says Patel.
If a town doesn’t take action by the Aug. 21 deadline, it will lose its say on whether cannabis businesses can set up shop in the town for five years and will have to abide by the rules set by the CRC.
It is unclear how a town would be able to opt back in later if it chooses to. Patel says that towns will be missing out on tax revenue and job creation if they opt out of allowing cannabis industries.
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