Preemptive Marijuana Bans Have A Cost

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  MANCHESTER – Municipalities across the state have preemptively banned the sale of recreational marijuana within their borders before state officials have even agreed on the terms of legalization. But in Manchester, the topic hasn’t been addressed.

  Resident Hank Glenn recently approached the Manchester Township Council and asked why.

“I want to preface with, where the state legislation is now, we cannot pass an ordinance. The state has said that any ordinances passed – this was before the last vote that ended up not happening – we did talk about it. I’ve drafted an ordinance,” municipal attorney Angela Koutsouris Zografos said. “If we had passed the ordinance, it would have been invalid.”

  The pending law, sponsored by Nicholas Scutari (D-22) in the state senate, has gone through numerous changes since it was introduced in 2017. As written at press time, S830 would allow local governments to prohibit “the operation of marijuana cultivation facilities, marijuana product manufacturing facilities, marijuana testing facilities, or marijuana retailers through the enactment of an ordinance.”

  Local governments that fail to enact such an ordinance within one year of the passage of legal recreational marijuana by default permit “the operation of a marijuana retail establishment within the local governmental entity for a period of five years, at the end of which five year period, and every five year period thereafter, the local governmental entity shall again be permitted to prohibit the operation of a marijuana establishment.”

  An identical companion bill was introduced in the State Assembly by Jamel C. Holley (D-20), Angela V. McKnight (D-31) and Britnee N. Timberlake (D-34).

  “They wrote it in that if you made an ordinance against this, it would be null and void,” Councilman Craig Wallis said. “This was part of the governor’s plan to get everybody on board again, I guess. But, they’re going to have to reintroduce all their ordinances, all the towns that have passed it, after the state votes it in, approves it or not. Anything they’ve done at this point is a waste of time.”

  It costs municipalities money to advertise ordinances, as is legally required. So it’s not only been a waste of time, but taxpayer money, for local governments to have adopted anything regarding recreational marijuana before the state even enacted anything, Wallis added.

  The 65-page bill as written now would legalize marijuana in small amounts for recreational use for anyone 21 years old and older. It’s sets up parameters for consumption, licensing and taxing, as well as an application process through Superior Court for expungement of possession of marijuana charges.

  It would become law 360 days after it’s enacted. That’s its language for now, anyway, and that’s subject to change.

  “My concern is, when the [state] law is passed, we don’t have anything in place that prohibits it,” Glenn said. “I don’t want it to fall through the cracks.”

  “We won’t allow it to fall through the cracks,” Council Vice President Samuel Fusaro said.

It’s premature to have any discussion about recreational marijuana since the state hasn’t finalized anything, Mayor Kenneth Palmer reiterated in a May 10 email to The Manchester Times.

  “It’s not legal and does not look like it will be anytime soon,” he said.