Surf City Bans Sale, Distribution and Growing of Marijuana

Mar 21, 2018
Source: NIDA

With the unanimous borough council approval of ordinance 2018-03 recently, Surf City became the latest New Jersey community to ban the sale, dispensation and cultivation of marijuana ahead of any action the state may take in the future.

There was no public comment on the ordinance despite a handful of residents in attendance at the council’s monthly meeting last week.

“The sale, resale, purchase, acquisition, distribution, dispensation, and cultivation of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia are prohibited in the Borough of Surf City, notwithstanding any non-preemptive federal or state law to the contrary,” the ordinance reads. “Marijuana cultivation facilities, marijuana product manufacturing facilities, marijuana testing facilities, marijuana retailers, and marijuana establishments are prohibited in the Borough of Surf City, notwithstanding any non-preemptive federal or state law to the contrary.”

The ordinance, which amends and supplements police regulations, defines marijuana as all parts of the genus Cannabis L., whether growing or not. The seeds, according to the ordinance, and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of the plant or its seeds, but not the weight of any other ingredient combined with marijuana, to prepare topical or oral products, including food and drink, are also listed in the borough’s measure.

Under the ordinance, a marijuana cultivation facility is defined as an entity licensed to grow marijuana and sell marijuana to producers, other pot product manufacturing facilities. It also lists a marijuana establishment as a cultivation, testing and production facility, or a retailer.

A “marijuana product manufacturing facility means an entity licensed to purchase marijuana, manufacture, prepare, and package marijuana items, and sell items to other marijuana product manufacturing facilities and to marijuana retailers, but not to consumers,” according to the ordinance.

The measure further characterizes a pot testing facility as an independent, third-party entity meeting accreditation requirements of any agency that is licensed to analyze and certify the safety and potency of pot products.

Enforcement of the ordinance falls to borough police, code and zoning officers. Any individual or entity found in violation of the ordinance is subject to the maximum fines and penalties as established under N.J.S.A. 40:49-5, which sets the penalties for violating municipal ordinances. Under that measure, penalties include up to 90 days in jail and fines up to $2,000. An arrest for a municipal violation can appear on an individual’s criminal record.

A person or business convicted of violating the ordinance within one year of the date of a first violation will be fined as a repeat offender.

The only exemption under Surf City’s ordinance is for medical marijuana by individuals who qualify under the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, and who adhere to the regulations under that act.

Last month, the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders also voted to oppose recreational pot. In addition to Surf City, officials in Berkeley Township, Lavallette, Point Pleasant Beach and Seaside Heights have all banned pot sales. Middletown, Oceanport and West Long Branch, all in Monmouth County, as well as the county freeholders there have also banned pot sales. Gov. Phil Murphy campaigned on a promise to legalize recreational weed should a bill be presented to him, and said he would like to get it done within his first 100 days.

Murphy has said he wants to legalize pot to even the playing field of social injustice since minority groups are three times more likely to be busted for pot possession. But Sen. Ronald L. Rice (D-Essex), also chairman of the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus, said legalizing weed would do more harm than help in urban communities. He, along with Sens. Joseph Cryan (D-Union) and Robert Singer (R-Ocean), introduced a bill last month that would decriminalize pot. Under the proposal, an individual with less than 10 grams of pot would be fined $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense and $500 for additional violations. However, Sen. President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) doesn’t expect the bill to go anywhere because he has no interest in advancing the bill. He, instead, is a proponent of legalizing marijuana.

Decriminalizing weed means an individual in possession of a small amount of marijuana would face a fine instead of a criminal record and jail time. Legalizing marijuana would, effectively, allow consumers to purchase the drug in a manner similar to how alcohol is purchased – regulated by age, but legal without a penalty (unless purchased by someone who is underage). It also means growing, transporting and selling pot would be legal, increasing supply and demand of the mind-altering drug.

— Gina G. Scala

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