By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank will move quickly to set zoning rules on the growth, distribution and retail sale of cannabis, the council informally agreed Wednesday night.
The decision will enable the borough to dictate where cannabis commerce can occur, and eventually generate some tax revenue.
Last November, New Jersey voters approved a change to the state constitution to legalize possession and use of marijuana by individuals aged 21 and older. The measure, endorsed by 67 percent of voters, also legalized the cultivation, processing and retail sale of “adult-use” cannabis.
Like all other municipalities, Red Bank now faces an August 21 deadline to choose from among three levels of oversight under the subsequently adopted state Cannabis Act.
At its at its workshop session, the council agreed to go for the green: allowing regulated cannabis businesses to operate.
The other two choices: ban commercial cultivation and retail sales, or do nothing and default to rules being written by the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, the state agency that borough Attorney Greg Cannon described as the functional equivalent of the division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, but for marijuana.
“Pardon me, I shouldn’t use the term ‘marijuana,'” said Cannon, “because ‘marijuana’ is now a legal term of art for any cannabis that is not regulated.” Essentially, he said, the moonshine of the pot world.
For municipalities that take no action, marijuana would become a conditional use in retail districts, and the industrial stages of the business would be allowed in industrial zones, Cannon said.
Towns that opt to ban any or all levels of cannabis businesses – cultivation, manufacturing, wholesaling, distribution, consumer sales – could not prohibit direct-to-consumer delivery services, he said.
Federal laws continue to prohibit cannabis within 1,000 feet of schools and daycare centers, he noted.
Under the state law, the borough could enact a local excise retail tax of 2 percent and a wholesale tax of 1 percent.
Mayor Pasquale Menna urged the council to adopt “reasonable regulations” regulate cannabis.
“People come up to me and always say, why is a liquor store in my neighborhood? Why is what used to be a candy store 30 years ago now something else?” he said. “Because it was there 40 years or 50 years ago, we didn’t take any action then, and you can’t do it now.”
Councilman Erik Yngstrom agreed. “We should regulate and decide where those businesses can be.”
Community development director Shawna Ebanks Ebanks told the council the law allows towns “to be as restrictive as we want to be.”
The council directed Ebanks to conduct an analysis and recommend where the different operations should be permitted, with a planning board review prior to council adoption.
A planning board hearing is expected August 2.
The council, which had been scheduled to hold one regular session in August, on the 11th, changed the date to the 18th, when it is expected to adopt a resolution on its action.
In January, homebuilder Charlie Farkouh filed an application with the borough planning office to convert a warehouse on East Leonard Street to a “medical marijuana growing facility.”
The operation would be conducted “in accordance with state regulations,” and would have “no store front,” the application states, with the last two words underlined.
The status of that application was not immediately available.
If you value the news coverage provided by redbankgreen, please become a paying member. Click here for details about our new, free newsletter and membership information.