A few weeks ago, approximately half of New Jersey municipalities were expected to opt out of retail cannabis. About 400 New Jersey towns, roughly 71%, have approved local ordinances banning recreational adult-use marijuana.
All New Jersey municipalities faced a hard deadline on August 21 to opt out before a five-year moratorium on marijuana bans went into effect. Essentially, if a town opts in now there’s no going back. If that town opts out now, they can reconsider opting in at any time.
“I fought hard for cannabis legalization in New Jersey, but in the past couple of months, I have recommended that municipalities ‘opt-out’ of allowing dispensaries as a temporary measure, unless they were ready to approve a specific dispensary before the ‘opt-out’ deadline last week,” David Nathan, founder of Doctors For Cannabis Regulation, said. “That’s because towns that opt-in cannot opt-out for several years, but towns that opt-out can reverse their decision at any time.”
Most of the 98 municipalities that have passed laws allowing for adult-use cannabis retailers, growers, manufacturers, and other business types are located in southern and central New Jersey. Forty-one towns voted to allow distributors and/or growers but banned retail. Another 10 towns still allow for medical marijuana operations without opening up the recreational side of the cannabis industry.
Many are convinced the ban on cannabis businesses is based on outdated stigma and fear.
“With 67 percent of New Jersey voters saying yes to legalizing cannabis and passage in all but three of New Jersey’s 565 municipalities, the municipalities that have opted out have unfortunately missed an opportunity to carry out the will of the voters,” said ACLU of New Jersey attorney Joe Johnson.
“These moratoriums only serve to protect and prolong the illicit cannabis marketplace. Time and time again, we have seen that consumers prefer to obtain cannabis products from safe, licensed, above-ground retailers,” said NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “But, absent access to such facilities, the illicit market will continue to fill this void.”
Similar trends took place in California and Colorado where many municipalities, after first prohibiting it, turned around and voted to allow adult-use businesses.