Cities and towns have the ultimate say over whether marijuana businesses are allowed locally, and many are already blocking them, at least temporarily. A related debate is percolating over how much more say the state Cannabis Regulatory Commission should yield to local governments.
Janice Kovach, the mayor of Clinton Town and president of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, said the league doesn’t have a position on legalization – but that towns must have local control and discretion and the ability to set stricter rules than the state.
“It’s important to note that opting out is not necessarily saying no,” Kovach said. “In some cases, an opt out is a maybe later.”
Charles Gormally, an attorney at Brach Eichler, said not every town needs to host dispensaries for the industry to succeed but that many are blocking them without trying to understand them.
“Do not cede your regulatory authority to municipalities,” Gormally said at a CSC hearing. “This is a comprehensive regulatory framework. You should preempt the area 100%, and don’t let communities tell cannabis businesses what they can and cannot do to comply with the state statute. That’s your job.”
None of the municipalities that have adopted ordinances in recent months blocking recreational marijuana businesses showed up at the CSC hearing to discuss potential zoning and regulations. The panel did hear from towns eager to understand the rules – and hopeful their hands aren’t tied.