Somerville NJ may treat marijuana ‘like alcohol’


SOMERVILLE – Being a trailblazer takes a lot of work.

Borough Administrator Kevin Sluka and Borough Attorney Jeremy Solomon are drafting the ordinances that would make Somerville one of only two of Somerset County’s 21 municipalities to allow marijuana shops.

Mayor Dennis Sullivan, who previously said the county seat would be a “trailblazer” in allowing marijuana businesses, this week repeated that Somerville would be a leader.

“We’re going to be in the vanguard,” Sullivan said at Monday’s borough council meeting.

Sluka said the ordinances creating the zoning for marijuana shops and setting the fees would be ready for introduction by the borough council’s second meeting in June.

Under state law, if municipalities do not adopt a marijuana zoning ordinance by Aug. 22, six months after legalization went into effect, marijuana businesses would be allowed to operate in a municipality for five years.

That has prompted most of Somerset County’s towns to adopt ordinances prohibiting marijuana shops well before the August deadline.

With Somerville’s ordinances introduced in June, that would allow ample time for the borough’s planning board to review the zoning changes and report back to the council, allowing the ordinance to be adopted weeks before the deadline.

Both Sluka and Solomon said that the same restrictions the borough places on alcohol use in public would also apply to marijuana.

“It’s no different than saying you can’t drink a beer while walking down Main Street,” Solomon told the council.

“If you can’t drink in public, you can’t smoke marijuana in public,” Sluka said.

Council President Fred Wied V, who admitted that he has endured decades of kidding because his name is pronounced “weed,” said the ordinance should make sure marijuana is “treated like alcohol.”

Wield also said that the “small-business atmosphere” of marijuana “will fit right here in Somerville.”

The borough council held a special meeting earlier this month exclusively to discuss the marijuana issue and to gather public input even before drafting an ordinance.

Most towns in Central Jersey did not seek public input before writing their ordinances and introducing them.

Westfield created a cannabis commission to solicit public input and make a recommendation to the town council on any marijuana ordinance.

Plainfield held a town hall meeting on May 11 so city residents could give feedback. 

Email: mdeak@mycentraljersey.com

Mike Deak is a reporter for mycentraljersey.com. To get unlimited access to his articles on Somerset and Hunterdon counties, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

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