Board of commissioners officially says no to cannabis sales

State guidelines permit borough to opt in during five-year window.

With just over a month remaining until a state-mandated deadline to decide the issue of  cannabis sales, Haddonfield’s board of commissioners voted unanimously to put the issue to rest for now and prohibit sales within municipal limits. 

Having already signed off on first reading during their June 22 public meeting, the governing body did so once more on July 19, surprisingly without a stir from members of the public who were given the chance to make their voices heard. 

Officially, the legislation was an ordinance that amended a previously existing land development code to prevent all classes of cannabis establishments and distributors from operating in the borough. 

“Essentially, right now the state regulations are in flux, and we’re not sure what they will mean for us, or any other municipalities,” said Mayor Colleen Bianco Bezich. 

“We have questions and concerns from a revenue perspective, we have questions and concerns from a geographical perspective in proximity to our schools.

“And so, with regard to that and any other technical nuances and uncertainties, we the three commissioners were in unison in voting to opt out of recreational cannabis for the time being.” 

Back in November, New Jersey voters approved a ballot measure that amended the state’s constitution to allow for the legalization of marijuana for adults 21 and older. 

In late February, Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation to permit recreational use of marijuana by adults, while establishing a comprehensive regulatory and licensing standard for commercial recreational cannabis operations, use and possession. 

All towns across the Garden State have been given until Aug. 21 to decide how to handle the issue, and hundreds have already chosen to opt out given a narrow six-month window to decide, the lack of clear regulations from which to proceed, and  concerns about how permitting sales will impact the community as a whole. 

Two main choices were presented: opt in and be locked in for five years, opt out and be allowed to opt in at any time during the five-year window. But should a locale take no action on the issue, it would be treated as an opt in. 

“That’s not to say we’re going to (opt in later),” Bezich explained to a small gathering in the auditorium of borough hall. All three of us as a group have not put our heads together. There are no regulations in front of us to wrap our heads around, so for this point in time, we are opting out.”

The lone exception included in the ordinance amendment is permission for the delivery of cannabis items and related supplies by a delivery service.

Neighboring Cherry Hill had previously voted to opt out of cannabis sales, while pledging to investigate the possibility of opting back in. Voorhees previously selected to opt in, and passed a pair of ordinances aimed at detailing regulations to facilitate the process.

For more information on cannabis sales, rules and regulations in New Jersey, visit: https://www.nj.gov/cannabis/.