On April 3rd, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill into law that would prohibit the sale of marijuana in any town with a population under 40,000. The bill is meant to curb the negative effects of cannabis legalization on small towns.

New Jersey has been the first state to legalize cannabis for recreational use. But, it’s not all good news. There are many towns in New Jersey that have outlawed adult-use cannabis retail sales. Read more in detail here: nj dispensary opening.

New Jersey residents may still be rejoicing that their state legalized adult-use cannabis on February 22, 2021, but it seems that the overwhelming majority of municipalities are still opposed to the business. According to the most recent study of municipal cannabis laws, almost 71 percent of municipalities in New Jersey have banned adult-use cannabis retail sales.

Analysts examined municipal records and public announcements from 551 of the 565 municipalities throughout the state as part of their study. The other 14 towns in New Jersey did not immediately respond to requests for information. On the positive side, medicinal cannabis usage was deemed a “special circumstance” by ten towns that decided to opt out of the legal cannabis business.

A total of 400 municipalities in New Jersey have opted out of the adult-use cannabis market.

Around 400 towns have opted to stay out of New Jersey’s recreational cannabis industry, with laws banning cannabis production, wholesaling, and transport, as well as dispensary retail shops and growing facilities. Only 98 towns, the most of which are in Central and South Jersey, have passed laws allowing legal cannabis shops to operate inside their boundaries. 

Furthermore, 41 municipalities enacted laws prohibiting dispensaries from opening while allowing some kinds of cannabis licenses, such as those for production and delivery services. According to Parsippany-Troy Hills Mayor Michael Soriano, “it matches what our people would tolerate and what our infrastructure had to provide.” 

Dispensaries must follow strict zoning restrictions set by local laws. Some dispensaries, for example, are only allowed to operate in specific zones or redevelopment regions. A township committee has also passed a law that enables cannabis industry participants to establish warehouses and distribution firms in certain zones, in addition to the aforementioned regulations.

The Ordinance Adoption Deadline Has Passed

New Jersey towns were required to adopt ordinances that either set specific zoning restrictions or outright banned cannabis companies by Aug. 22, 2021, under the legal cannabis legislation signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in February.

Dispensaries will be considered a conditional use regardless of retail zone in municipalities that failed to adopt an ordinance. Other kinds of cannabis companies situated in any industrial zone are subject to the same rules. It’s worth noting that conditional-use companies must be approved by local planning authorities before they can open.

“The (state) rules do give towns quite a voice,” says George Jackson, a business administrator in Long Branch. He talks from personal experience, since his city was one of just a few to let the deadline pass on Aug. 22. Following the expiration of the deadline, the municipal council moved to establish its own set of rules, which are now in the draft stage. According to Jackson, the city’s decision shows a willingness to meet the demands of the 71 percent of local “yes” voters, many of whom have been denied the ability to influence cannabis retail sales decisions in New Jersey.

“Long Branch will be protected, and we will be able to make informed choices about what uses will be permitted and where they will be permitted,” he said. The deadline for the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) to issue initial state rules for the market was set for August 22–a job that the Commission enthusiastically completed on August 19.

Cannabis may be legalized in more cities in the future.

While it may come as a shock to hear that so many towns in New Jersey have chosen to opt out of legal cannabis sales, there is a silver lining. According to Edmund DeVeaux, president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, there is optimism for future industry development.

During a recent interview with reporters, DeVeaux, whose organization promotes industry sustainability and accountability, shared his views. He does not believe that the opt-outs would hinder the state’s legal cannabis sector from developing, particularly in the coming years.

The recreational cannabis market in Colorado has inspired the Association’s president. Colorado’s adult-use cannabis business, although growing into one of the most profitable in the country, didn’t start off looking so promising. When the state’s legalization legislation was passed in 2014, 70 percent of the state’s municipalities originally refused to sell recreational marijuana. 

“They saw that the sky didn’t fall, and that the money produced by adjacent towns was just too profitable to pass up,” DeVeaux said to reporters, pointing out that the number of Colorado communities allowing legal cannabis sales had quadrupled in the past four years.

Municipalities in New Jersey are prohibited from prohibiting citizens from using or possessing lawfully supplied cannabis, according to state law. If a state citizen does so on public land, however, the regulation is nullified. Municipalities, on the other hand, cannot prohibit cannabis delivery services from operating inside their boundaries. Furthermore, municipalities are not permitted by law to prohibit wholesale-to-retail cannabis product movement in townships.


Bethan Rose is a cannabis activist, writer, and nomad who has no fixed address. She is now living in Bali and can typically be found on her hammock collecting cannabis material.

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