Though NJ Voters Approve State Marijuana Referendum, Paramus Moves to Join Municipalities …

PARAMUS, NJ – The Paramus Borough Council took the first step toward prohibiting recreational marijuana dispensaries in an ordinance approved on first reading January 5. The ordinance will undergo a public hearing and final vote to be announced.

In an amended version of its zoning ordinance, the Council voted to prohibit “cannabis/marijuana recreational dispensaries…with the exception of the Highway Corridor Commercial (HCC) Zone District.” Medical marijuana is a permitted use, according to the ordinance.

Permitted in the HCC Zone, according to Paramus’s master plan is the following:

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Hotels and convention centers; retail stores used for the sale of merchandise, wholesale salesroom; personal service establishment; restaurants; shopping centers and malls; movie theaters; art galleries and museums; medical, professional and administrative offices; medical and dental clinics; adult day-care and child day-care facilities; business or professional offices, office buildings, banks; health and fitness facilities, exercise or health clubs, gymnasium or athletic establishment, indoor swimming pools; funeral homes; business or vocational Schools (except for the teaching of any trade or occupation prohibited in other zones; commuter parking/transportation terminal; motor vehicle service and repair; automotive supply and service establishments and filling stations; recreation and recreational facilities; new car dealerships; hospitals and health care facilities campus; assisted living, skilled nursing, long-term acute care, dementia or memory care facilities; research laboratories provided the same do not involve any hazardous or toxic substances unless off-site disposal pursuant to NJDEP regulations; and multi-family residential units.

Area neighbor Hawthorne had its own discussions on the issue. In 2018, when debate on marijuana legalization/decriminalization was being discussed ahead of Governor Phil Murphy’s unsuccessful attempt to legislate his agenda into law, the borough preemptively banned the sale of all forms of marijuana. Councilman Bruce Bennett (R) represented the only dissent on the council to Ordinance 2207-18. While the borough council’s ordinances stand, joined by several other area municipalities which have enacted similar ordinances, the New Jersey voters overwhelmingly chose to approve the 2020 marijuana referendum item.

In New Jersey, despite the referendum results, legislators in Trenton have failed to enact new legislation before the Jan. 1 deadline. As such, there has been no change to standing state laws on marijuana, meaning that its possession, use, and sale is not legal except under select circumstances for medical marijuana patients obtaining it at state licensed dispensaries.

Some experts believe that it may take up to a year before a marijuana framework has been legally established. Legislators have debated at length over the issues of potentially impaired drivers, testing, and usage by employees during or outside of work, among other topics.

Police continue to make arrests, although in November, NJ State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal asked prosecutors not to press charges and “use their discretion” on possession of small amounts of marijuana.

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