Berkeley Will Only Allow Medicinal Cannabis

Resident Daniel Kessel asked the governing body to legalize cannabis businesses like his own in town during a Township Council meeting earlier in the year. (Photo by Chris Lundy)

  BERKELEY – Medicinal marijuana will be the only cannabis legally available in town.

  Since talk of legalization began, Berkeley officials were some of the first in Ocean County to go on record to be against it. However, throughout the process, they have continued to be in support of medicinal marijuana.

  Mayor Carmen Amato pointed out the medicinal marijuana will be allowed only in the township’s Industrial Park.

  Berkeley encompasses a number of areas that don’t border each other. The ban includes the entire town – Bayville and all the interior neighborhoods that come off of Route 9, the senior communities, Manitou Park, their portion of Pelican Island, and South Seaside Park.

  The ordinance enacting the ban states “The Township Council…has determined that, due to present uncertainties regarding the potential future impacts that allowing one or more classes of cannabis business might have on New Jersey municipalities in general, and on the Township of Berkeley in particular, it is at this time necessary and appropriate, and in the best interest of the health, safety and welfare of …residents and members of the public who visit, travel, or conduct business in Berkeley Township…to prohibit all manner of recreational marijuana-related land use and development within the geographic boundaries of Berkeley Township.”

  The legalization bills signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in February defines a comprehensive regulatory and licensing process for commercial recreational cannabis operations, and gave municipalities 180 days (by August 22) to adopt regulations governing the number of cannabis establishments within the town’s boundaries.

  Towns could choose which of six different businesses to allow: growing, manufacturing, wholesaling, distribution, retail, and delivery. Most towns banned them all. Medicinal does not fall into any of these categories.

  If a town’s governing body did nothing, then legalization would go forward. Even if the town decided to create a ban after that, any businesses that were created would be grandfathered in. Several towns have made the decision to ban now and revisit the issue later.

  Throughout the entire previous year, once it became known that legalization was going to be on the ballot, towns around Ocean County made a choice. Berkeley, like many other towns, installed a pre-emptive ban that was more ceremonial than anything else. State law always overpowers local laws, so any ban would have been in name only. Some towns figured it wasn’t worth paying the township attorney to draft a resolution that would eventually be voided anyway.

  Once the state regulations were released in February, it gave towns something to work for or against. However, the state documents were hundreds of pages long, and officials had to tread carefully.

  Lakehurst and South Toms River are allowing recreational cannabis businesses. They are both small towns bordering larger towns where it is banned.