New Jersey’s efforts to legalize adult use recreational cannabis are moving forward, full steam ahead. While Governor Murphy has somewhat walked back his pledge to sign a legalization bill into law in his first 100 days, he has stated that he is not deterred by Attorney General Sessions and continues to study how legal cannabis has operated in the eight jurisdictions where it is legal. Moreover, Senator Scutari has reintroduced his legalization bill to the legislature and Deputy State Assembly Majority Leader Reed Gusciora, who co-sponsored Scutari’s bill, also plans to introduce his own competing bill in the coming weeks. Gusciora’s bill is rumored to allow for home-grows and to limit the number of cannabis businesses who are given licenses.
Notwithstanding this forward momentum, certain municipalities have launched preemptive attacks on legal cannabis. The Ocean County Board of Freeholders is expected to approve of a resolution against the legalization of cannabis. The Monmouth County Board of Freeholders passed a similar resolution last month. These resolutions do not actually carry any legal authority – the proposed bill requires municipalities (towns) to make the decision about legal cannabis, not counties. The resolutions are also seemingly premature given that the counties are implementing a ban before there is any consensus about what legal cannabis will actually look like in New Jersey.
On the other side of the equation, Atlantic City Mayor Frank Gilliam voiced his interest in allowing legal cannabis and plans to travel to Nevada to research how Las Vegas has handled recreational cannabis. Mayor Gilliam stated that he believes that legal cannabis could “jump-start” the city’s volatile economy, a position that will likely be followed by many New Jersey municipalities seeking to strengthen their economies.
“The key for me is to get more knowledge on how they rolled out the process and understand the pros and cons. They have gaming like we do, so I want to figure out how those things coexist, and figure out how to make it work for Atlantic City,” Gilliam said.
Ultimately, the representations made by municipalities about whether they will or won’t allow legal cannabis prior to an actual legalization law and implementation of regulations are not set in stone. Everything is subject to change over the next several months as legislators grapple with how to implement Governor Murphy’s legal cannabis agenda. This blog will continue to track major developments with local municipalities as they unfold.