PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. – Addressing state legislation legalizing recreational marijuana, Phillipsburg Town Council on Tuesday night passed an ordinance that prohibits its use — an option that gives council the time to establish zones where residents may ultimately be able to use marijuana.

In its first in-person, non-Zoom meeting in more than a year at the Phillipsburg Senior Center, council discussed what to do to meet the Aug. 21 deadline to take action to either prohibit or limit the number of cannabis establishments and distributors, as well as establish hours of operation and civil penalties for violation of ordinances.

Municipalities can opt out, meaning that all uses are prohibited, or they can opt in and establish certain zones for recreational use of cannabis.

If no action is taken by Aug. 21, any class of cannabis establishment or distributor will be permitted to operate in the municipality and will be considered a permitted use in certain zones.

Town attorney Richard Wenner advised council to take the opt-out option, to allow time to consider the new law.

He noted that Apothecarium, a medical cannabis dispensary at 55 S. Main St., would not be affected by the opt-out action.

Councilmember Harry Wyant Jr. agreed that the opt-out option was best, noting that it gives council time to address zones and still preserves the option to opt in later.

Also agreeing with opting out, Councilmember Danielle DeGerolamo said establishing zones for recreational use of cannabis could be a topic for a council work session. "I’d rather get it right," she said.

Council Vice President Robert Fulper, seeking an assurance from Wenner that opting out does not affect the Apothecarium, also backed opting out while giving his endorsement for recreational use of marijuana. It's "safer than drinking," he said with a smile.

Council President Frank McVey said Wyant "hit it best" by noting that opting out provides the time needed to get things right.

Councilmember Randy Piazza Jr. was absent.

Council's action also allows the town planning board to determine the zones where recreational marijuana can be used.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy in February signed bills legalizing recreational marijuana after voters approved it in the November 2020 election.

New housing development proposed

McVey read a letter of intent from Larry Regan, president of Regan Development Corp., Irvington, New York, about the firm’s interest in developing a workforce housing development of 80 to 90 units on 5.4 acres at 150 Anderson St.

The letter noted the housing would target blue-collar workers, those not ready to buy a first home or recent graduates starting their first jobs.

The property is across from Phillipsburg Elementary School and Walters Park.

Council plans to invite Regan officials to make a presentation at an upcoming meeting.

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