Plenty of towns and cities across New Jersey have adopted their own ordinances blocking sales of recreational marijuana within their borders, even before voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing for a legal adult-use market.

None of those local bans actually matter, according to the current proposed state law that outlines how the marketplace will eventually run.

Under A21/S21, any ordinance enacted by a municipality prior to the effective date of the state law is null and void. A municipality has the right to prohibit marijuana-related operations but only after the state's framework is fully known and approved.

"They will have a more informed decision, rather than what I believed, quite frankly, to be a knee-jerk reaction the last time," said state Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, the bill sponsor and a longtime advocate for legalization.

The bill's language was brought up as a concern during a Monday hearing by state Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R-Bergen, who wondered why municipalities need to go through "the same exercise" all over again.

"For a municipality to pass an ordinance is an expensive proposition," Cardinale said. "We ought to reimburse the municipalities for the cost that bill may put on them individually."

Scutari immediately responded, noting that reimbursement will not be added to the bill.

Under the current measure, municipalities that want to block marijuana sales must do so within 180 days of the law's launch.

Michael Cerra, executive director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, said the League has advised the Legislature that it would be preferable to allow municipalities to opt in, rather than opt out, due to the cost of a public hearing process and adopting ordinances.

Cerra said this potential repeat work is seen as a minor inconvenience, but that most municipalities that adopted ordinances did so knowing that this could happen.

"The passage was indeed a statement and there is an acknowledgement that a local ordinance crafted in response to and citing a state statute is on firm ground," Cerra said.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at

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