Why Most New Jersey Municipalities Are Banning Marijuana Shops Despite Overwhelming Public Support


The vast majority of New Jersey voters approved a referendum last year to legalize marijuana. So why have more than 70 percent of municipalities in the state opted to ban cannabis businesses from operating in their area? The answer isn’t simple NIMBY-ism as some prohibitionists would have it. First of all, voters haven’t had a direct say in the local decisions so far, with local officials making the choice through city councils. But it’s also the case that elected officials several areas who do support cannabis commercialization chose to enact a ban ahead of an August 22 deadline simply to give themselves more time to develop individualized regulations before greenlighting marijuana companies. That was also the deadline for the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) to issue initial state regulations for the market, which it did slightly ahead of schedule last week. “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, told Marijuana Moment. “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.” “In fact, I’m on the Princeton Cannabis Task Force and recommended that we opt out until we have zoning and other governance issues worked out,” he continued. “It’s not because I don’t think Princeton should have a dispensary—I actually do hope we have a dispensary ‘in my back yard.’ In particular I hope we choose a cannabis business that helps empower communities of color, which have disproportionately suffered under the war on drugs.” In any case, as…

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