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COURT HOUSE - Middle Township will introduce an ordinance on July 7 to ban, at least temporarily, all classes of recreational cannabis licenses. 

According to a release, the township has supported the pending application of the Insa medical cannabis facility in the municipality and sought public input on permitting dispensaries, but the complexities of state legislation leave too many questions for the township to proceed at this time. 

“Since the law to legalize adult-use cannabis passed in February, the township has been doing its due diligence to make the most well-informed decision on this important issue,” Mayor Timothy Donohue stated. “In order to be confident that our plans serve the best interest of the township, we need to fully understand the state regulations and we need a final answer on whether or not the application for a medicinal cannabis facility planned for Indian Trail Road is going to be approved by the state. We still don’t have those answers and the clock is running out on us.” 

After New Jersey legalized marijuana, municipalities were given an Aug. 22 deadline to regulate the public use, sales and manufacture of cannabis within their borders. 

Middle Township already acted to ban marijuana smoking in public spaces, which is consistent with its regulations on cigarette smoking and alcohol use. 

The township has not received the necessary details and direction from the state to move forward with marijuana licenses, Donohue said. If a municipality takes no action to ban recreational adult-use sales by the Aug. 22 deadline, cannabis sales are permitted by default, and the municipality cannot propose a ban for another five years. 

Middle Township was among several communities to approach state lawmakers about extending the Aug. 22 deadline until the state could provide more clarity, but the date was not changed and Middle Township must take action at its next meeting to pass a ban by the deadline. “It’s a frustrating situation for the Township Committee,” Donohue said. “More than two-thirds of Township voters supported legalization and we are already on the record in support of the Insa application for a medicinal cannabis facility here. I believe we are moving toward a consensus that would permit at least one recreational dispensary, but we simply do not have all the information needed at this time to be comfortable with that decision.” 

Communities that pass ordinances banning recreational cannabis sales before the Aug. 22 deadline have the option to make those ordinances less restrictive on their own timetables. 

While residents have expressed a variety of concerns related to legalization, Donohue said marijuana can be used locally whether or not Middle Township permits recreational dispensaries. 

“Banning recreational sales doesn’t ban legal weed from any town,” Donohue stated. “Adult residents can still purchase and use cannabis, in its many consumable forms, from sources outside township limits, including delivery to their door from an approved New Jersey dispensary.” 

Towns that permit dispensaries can tax retail sales up to 2% and wholesale transactions at 1%. Municipalities in other states have gained significant revenue, helping to reduce increases in property taxes, and fund cannabis education, addiction prevention and community policing efforts. 

“The law as passed is complicated and the specifics of the regulatory environment remain unclear,” Donohue stated. “In order to protect the township, we must act to ban sales for now. In order to do so, we must introduce the ordinance at our July 7 meeting to beat the Aug. 22 deadline.” 

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