Resident Daniel Kessel asked the board of directors during a township council meeting earlier this year to legalize cannabis businesses like his own in town. (Photo by Chris Lundy)
BERKELEY – Medical marijuana will be the only legally available cannabis in town.
Since the talk of legalization began, Berkeley officials were among the first in Ocean County to oppose it on record. However, they continued to support medical marijuana throughout the process.
Mayor Carmen Amato pointed out that medical marijuana is only allowed in the municipality’s industrial park.
Berkeley covers a number of areas that are not contiguous. The ban includes the entire city – Bayville and all interior neighborhoods off Route 9, the senior communities, Manitou Park, its portion of Pelican Island, and South Seaside Park.
The ordinance enacting the prohibition states: “The Township Council … has determined that, given the current uncertainties about the potential future impact, the approval of one or more classes of cannabis business will have on the communities of New Jersey at large and on the township Berkeley in particular, it is necessary and appropriate at this time and in the best interests of the health, safety, and well-being of … residents and members of the public visiting Berkeley Township, traveling, or doing business … all kinds of recreational marijuana to Prohibit-related land use and development within the geographic boundaries of Berkeley Township. “
The legalization laws, signed by Governor Phil Murphy in February, define a comprehensive regulatory and licensing process for commercial recreational cannabis activities, and gave communities 180 days (until August 22) to regulate the number of cannabis facilities within city limits .
Cities could choose which of six different businesses to allow: Growth, Manufacturing, Wholesale, Distribution, Retailing, and Delivery. Most cities have banned them all. Medicine does not fall into any of these categories.
If a city’s governing body did nothing, legalization would move forward. Even if the city subsequently decided to put a ban, all new businesses would become grandfathers. Several cities have made the decision to ban the ban now and come back to the issue later.
Throughout last year, when it became known that legalization would be on the ballot, cities around Ocean County made a choice. Berkeley, like many other cities, imposed a preventive ban that was more ceremonial than anything else. State law always takes precedence over local laws, so any prohibition would only have existed in name. Some cities felt it was not worth paying the community lawyer to write a resolution that would be invalidated anyway.
When government regulations were released in February, it gave cities something to work for or against. However, the state documents were hundreds of pages long and officials had to be careful.
Lakehurst and South Toms River allow recreational cannabis business. Both are small cities that border larger cities where it is forbidden.