To aid applicants in the real estate and zoning component of their businesses and cannabis license applications, this article broadly details the relevant zoning provisions of the Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (CREAMMA or the Act) and New Jersey’s Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL), the primary zoning legislation in New Jersey, together with issues that both applicant and lawyer alike should consider when applying to a land use board to obtain approval.
CREAMMA, the MLUL, and Municipal Ordinances
Before CREAMMA was enacted, many New Jersey municipalities adopted ordinances that prohibited cannabis-related uses in anticipation of the legalization of recreational marijuana. CREAMMA, however, partially regulates the municipal zoning of cannabis uses as detailed below.
First, CREAMMA voids ordinances that prohibited cannabis uses adopted prior to the Act’s effective date and required municipalities to act on cannabis uses within 180 days; no later than Aug. 21, 2021. If a town failed to act at all within that timeframe, the consequence was significant: (1) the “growing, cultivating, manufacturing, and selling and reselling of cannabis and cannabis items, and operations to transport in bulk cannabis items by a cannabis cultivator, cannabis manufacturer, cannabis wholesaler, or as a cannabis distributor or cannabis delivery service shall be permitted uses in all industrial zones of the municipality;” and (2) “the selling of cannabis items to consumers from a retail store by a cannabis retailer shall be a conditional use in all commercial zones or retail zones, subject to meeting the conditions set forth in any applicable zoning ordinance or receiving a variance from one or more of those conditions in accordance with the [Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL)].” N.J.S.A. 24:6I-45(b) (emphasis added).