hot topicThe Red Bank council has scheduled a special session next week to consider easing limits on cannabis shop sitings. 

The ad hoc meeting, slated for Monday, is for “review and discussion of Cannabis Businesses within the Borough Code of Red Bank, including but not limited to Borough Ordinance 2021-17,” according to an announcement on the borough website.

Partly at issue is federal law, under which marijuana is still an illegal drug. Its sale within 1,000 feet of a school, playground or public housing facility is a federal crime, even though the substance has been decriminalized in New Jersey.

In December, John Marchetti, a co-owner of Scarlet Reserve Room, applied to change the use from a retail tobacco establishment to a retail Class 5 dispensary. The application was denied, based on the shop’s proximity to the playground in Marine Park.

Last month, Marchetti asked the council to consider revising its ordinance to reduce the prohibited distance to 250 feet. Without the change, his store, at 3 East Front Street, would likely have to find a new location outside Red Bank in order to complete its pending pursuit of a state dispensary license, he said.

Last week, at the council’s regular session, Councilmember Michael Ballard said the request raises additional questions.

“There’s parking issues that need to be addressed, along with a couple of other things – hours of operation,” he said. He said the code committee, of which he’s chairman, was reviewing the request.

“That 1,000-foot restriction is odd,” said Mayor Billy Portman, “because it was put in place to have drug-free school zones or parks. But now we’ve legalized cannabis. So it doesn’t, to me, fall under that limitation anymore.”

“Especially if you look at the map,” he said, “it really limits dramatically where there can be legal cannabis sales, so I’m certainly open to changing that number.”

But he also wants to avoid the creation of “a cannabis row somewhere,” with a string of marijuana sellers near one another, Portman said. Ballard said the committee was also looking at that issue as well.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. Participants may listen and comment via Zoom or participate in-person at borough hall, 90 Monmouth Street.

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