Borough officials discuss cannabis law issues

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(MARK R. SULLIVAN/THE OCEAN STAR)

BAY HEAD — Borough officials will look into creating a new ordinance prohibiting the sale and dispensing of marijuana or any cannabis-based products, which it originally adopted in early 2018, following the recent signing of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance and Marketplace Modernization Act by Gov. Phil Murphy.

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act legalizes personal use cannabis for certain adults, subject to state regulation; decriminalizes small amount marijuana and hashish possession; and removes marijuana as a Schedule I drug.

“The new law basically has nullified our existing ordinance that banned marijuana dispensaries in the town,” Councilwoman Jennifer Barnes-Gambert told the governing body at its March meeting.

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“As a result of that we are going to have to create a new ordinance and we only have until Aug. 21 in which to do it. You have 180 days from the signing of the bill.

“So if it is our intent to prohibit any kind of marijuana dispensary or business in town we are going to have to enact some kind of ordinance sooner than later.”

Nearly 68 percent of voters approved the legalization of recreational cannabis for adults aged 21 and up last year, in a response to a public question on the Nov. 3, 2020 ballot. 

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance and Marketplace Modernization Act, as well as S-3454 — which addresses underage possession or use of cannabis — were signed by the governor on Feb. 22.

S-3454, in part, prohibits police officers from notifying an underage individual’s parents or guardians upon their first offense. In addition, police may not stop or search an underage individual or their personal property due to the odor or unconcealed possession of cannabis, under S-3454. 

“If … a minor is caught with marijuana or alcohol as a first offense the police department is no longer allowed to contact parents, which as a parent, I find incredible,” Ms. Barnes-Gambert said.

Parents and guardians are notified of all subsequent offences, and minors are subject to fines or community service following their third offence, under S-3454.

Officials in the local area, including in Brick Township, Lavallette and Point Pleasant Beach have voiced their opposition to S-3454, in part or in whole, in recent weeks.

“Basically we are not allowed to say anything to parents about the juveniles that get caught with either alcohol or marijuana and there are really no charges we can bring up on anybody as it has to be all written warnings,” Chief William Hoffman said.

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