Borough adjusts code to regulate cannabis use in public

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Entering the Borough of Mantoloking. FILE PHOTO

MANTOLOKING — The borough council adopted revisions to its police regulations code during a meeting on May 18, changing how the borough deals with individuals using cannabis in public areas in other ways than smoking, vaping or aerosolizing. 

According to Borough Attorney Jean L. Cipriani, the change gives the borough authority to regulate other forms of cannabis intake such as edible food or candy. 

The change states, “It is unlawful for any person over the age of 21 to consume, other than by smoking, vaping, or aerosolizing, any cannabis item in a public place, including any indoor public place, other than school property, or when not prohibited by the owner or person responsible for the operation of the public place.”

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The borough adopted changes to its “public nuisances prohibited” subsection to follow state guidance on the issue.

State regulations already designate restrictions and penalties for those consuming marijuana in public when smoking, vaping or aerosolizing.

According to Ms. Cipriani, this change may be altered in the future. 

“I think that this is an area where, even though it’s not normally the way you want to proceed, we’re going to find ourselves updating this provision regarding cannabis several times over the next few years,” she said.

Council members wondered why the ordinance sounded counterintuitive since the change, as read, seems to exclude smoking, vaping and aerosolizing in the restricted actions. 

“We are very much hamstrung,” said Ms. Cipriani. “As much as it would be nice to change the language so our ordinance reads better than the statute … what we risk in that case is that it’s invalid because it doesn’t track the language of the statute.” 

The change would not, however, alter how the borough can act when cannabis is used in public. 

For a violation involving cannabis activity, according to the borough code, users found in public will pay a fine of $250 on the first offense and a fine of $350 on the second or subsequent offense.

For adults under the legal age to purchase cannabis items, a first offense includes a civil penalty of $100, a second offense includes a civil penalty of $200 and a third or subsequent offense includes a fine of $350.

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. Gov. Phil Murphy signed the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance and Marketplace Modernization Act on Feb. 22.

The borough had previously adopted a new subsection to the code adding marijuana establishments to the prohibited uses in the zoning code. 

The move, as seen in many local boroughs, follows guidance from the New Jersey League of Municipalities urging boroughs to move the legislation before the Aug. 22 state deadline to do so. If a borough failed to enact a wanted ban by the date, the growth, cultivation, sale and resale of cannabis and cannabis products would be allowed for at least five years.

The change sets regulations for the commercial recreational cannabis marketplace and establishes six classes of businesses: cannabis cultivator, cannabis manufacturer, cannabis wholesaler, cannabis distributor, cannabis retailer and cannabis delivery.

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