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More Than 70% of New Jersey Cities Ban Pot Shops

They call this legalization? More than 70% of New Jersey communities have opted out of the legal marijuana industry

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They call this legalization? Never mind that more than 70% of New Jersey adults voted for legal weed. The number of New Jersey communities opting out of the legal marijuana industry has increased dramatically in recent weeks.

Marijuana Business Daily reports the number has now reached almost three-quarters of the municipalities in the state. According to the USA Today Network, roughly 71% of New Jersey towns – about 400 of them – have approved local ordinances that ban adult-use marijuana businesses.

Another 41 towns passed ordinances that specifically prohibit dispensaries but allow some combination of the other five classes of New Jersey cannabis licenses. These range from marijuana cultivation centers to delivery companies, reports the Asbury Park Press. The same strict zoning regulations are in place on most of those ordinances.

Ten municipalities opted out of the Cannabis industry completely but made an exception for medical marijuana uses. 

Just a few weeks ago, the prediction was that only about half of New Jersey municipalities would ban the industry. A majority of voters in all but three municipalities in the state voted in favor of the marijuana legalization ballot question in November 2020. 

By contrast, according to the USA Today Network analysis, only 98 municipalities have passed laws that will allow for Cannabis businesses. These include adult-use marijuana retailers, growers, manufacturers and other business types. Most of those businesses are located in southern and central New Jersey.


New Jersey Opting Out

Localities had until this past Saturday to decide whether to allow retail operations or to ban them, reports NORML. Those municipalities that have chosen to opt out are free to reverse their position at any time. (A city-by-city breakdown of local ordinances is available here.)

The initial citywide bans apply only to the licensing of brick-and-mortar stores. New regulations just issued by the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission forbid localities from imposing bans on marijuana delivery services. 

“These moratoriums only serve to protect and prolong the illicit cannabis marketplace, said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “Time and time again, we have seen that consumers prefer to obtain cannabis products from safe, licensed, above-ground retailers. But, absent access to such facilities, the illicit market will continue to fill this void.”

“Despite a mandate from their constituents, the majority of whom overwhelmingly voted in November to legalize adult-use marijuana sales in New Jersey, many local officials remain hesitant of the notion of licensing these operations in their communities.

The irony is that marijuana sales are already taking place in these communities right now, Armentano said. “But rather than taking place in licensed, regulated establishments, they are occurring on street-corners without any oversight and without any monies generated from these sales filtered back into the community.”

As long as public notice requirements are met, New Jersey municipalities can opt back in at any time.

Studies Refute Claims of Negative Impacts

Studies have shown that retail marijuana establishments are not linked with elevated crime rates or increases in youth marijuana use. Some analyses conclude that retailers are associated with a rise in home values and in other positive indicators. 

New Jersey doesn’t cap the number of licensed retailers. Existing medical Cannabis businesses are eligible to apply for approval to sell to the adult market.

Counties just across the Delaware River from Pennsylvania have more than a third of all approved dispensaries. These extend from Mercer County south through Salem County.

‘This gives us a jump start on the Cannabis industry,” said Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora. “While other towns hesitate for good reasons and bad, we clearly are able to set the path.

“It is something worth taking a chance on,” Gusciora said, reports the Asbury Park Press.

Retail sales are anticipated to begin within six months.

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