Middle Township to weigh prohibiting marijuana use in public spaces 

Cape May Court House, N.J. – Middle Township will propose a ban on public marijuana smoking and vaping at its April 5 Committee meeting. The measure would establish fines of up to $1,000 for violators.

Though New Jersey recently legalized marijuana use for adults over 21, municipalities retain the right to regulate smoking and vaping in public areas. Local governments also have the ability to restrict sales and cultivation of marijuana and related products, and limit the number of marijuana businesses within their boundaries.

By weighing the public smoking ban, Middle Township is “affirming the family-friendly atmosphere of public areas,” according to the ordinance.

The Township also cites health reasons, explaining that setting boundaries around marijuana use discourages “the inherently dangerous behavior of smoking marijuana around non-marijuana users.”

“While we continue to analyze the intricacies of this legislation and the impacts on our community, there is no reason to hesitate in moving forward to ban smoking or vaping of cannabis products in public spaces,” Mayor Tim Donohue said. “This is line with our ban on both alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking in our parks and public properties.”

Middle Township is not alone in acting to regulate marijuana use at the municipal level. Before the state law even passed, dozens of New Jersey towns moved to ban marijuana sales within their borders.

Once New Jersey legalized marijuana, any pre-existing ordinances were invalidated. Municipalities now have 180 days from the law’s passage – through Aug. 21, 2021 – to regulate marijuana use in their towns.

Locally, Ocean City Council voted unanimously last month to ban businesses that cultivate, manufacture, test or sell marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia. The ordinance is scheduled for a public hearing and final vote at the April 8 Council meeting.

Similar to regulations set forth by the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act, Middle Township’s ordinance defines public areas and focuses on protecting the health, safety, and general welfare of residents and visitors from the health hazards of secondhand marijuana smoke. It also discourages the behavior around non-marijuana users, especially youth.

The Middle Township ordinance would ban marijuana/cannabis vaping or smoking in these public places:

– Parks and nature areas, such as wildlife habitats

– Outdoor dining areas that are not enclosed

– Highways, roads, sidewalks and waterways

– Recreation spots including beach areas, playgrounds, sports fields and courts, and bike paths

– Public events such as farmers markets, concerts, parades and festivals

The Middle Township Police Department would enforce the ordinance. Anyone who violates the law would face a $100 to $250 fine for a first offense, and $500 to $1,000 for a second or subsequent offense.

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