Sea Isle City's beaches are one of the public areas where marijuana smoking or use is banned.


City Council gave final approval Tuesday to a blanket prohibition of the sale, manufacture and distribution of both recreational and medical marijuana in Sea Isle City.

The ordinance also bans the smoking or use of cannabis “in any public area,” including the beaches, the Promenade, parks and sidewalks.

“The City of Sea Isle City considers the cultivation, manufacturing, testing, sale or distribution of medicinal and recreational marijuana and/or the paraphernalia that facilitates the use of such marijuana within the City to be detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare of the City,” the ordinance says.

None of the Council members commented on the marijuana ban during the 5-0 vote on the ordinance at their teleconference meeting Tuesday.

Council President William Kehner made it clear when the ordinance was introduced in April that marijuana shops or dispensaries will not be allowed under any circumstances in Sea Isle.

“I think it pretty much sums up that we have no interest in tolerating marijuana sales,” he said then.

This was the second time in two years that Sea Isle has approved such an ordinance. In 2019, Council preemptively banned the sale of marijuana when Gov. Phil Murphy and the state Legislature were discussing the possibility of legalizing the recreational use of pot at that time.

After two years of political debate, state lawmakers finally agreed on legislation to make marijuana legal. Murphy signed three bills on Feb. 22 legalizing recreational cannabis for adults 21 and older and to decriminalize it for people under 21. Medical marijuana has been legal in New Jersey since 2010.

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission is setting up the rules for the state’s marijuana market.

Sea Isle’s 2019 ordinance became invalid once New Jersey formally legalized recreational cannabis in February. However, the new state legislation gives municipalities 180 days to reinstate their prohibition of marijuana sales, prompting Sea Isle to approve a new ordinance.

Under New Jersey’s cannabis laws, marijuana use is limited to private property or inside the home. The laws ban the smoking or consumption of marijuana in public places, such as a park, beach or inside at a bar or restaurant.

New Jersey’s new Cannabis Regulatory Commission is in the process of creating the regulatory framework for the state’s recreational marijuana market. The governor has estimated it may take up to six months before pot dispensaries or shops begin selling cannabis.

Although marijuana sales would be banned in Sea Isle, cannabis could be delivered to private homes under strict licensing regulations in the ordinance.

“The delivery of any type of cannabis shall be prohibited within the City except by a state-approved dispensary delivery service and by employees of (that) dispensary delivery service provided all of the City licensing requirements are met,” according to the ordinance.

Among the requirements, the delivery service could drop off the cannabis only at private homes and would have to use unmarked vehicles. Deliveries could be made only to the “intended recipient,” the ordinance states.

In other business Tuesday, Mayor Leonard Desiderio announced that Sea Isle’s municipal buildings will reopen to the public on May 24 after they had remained closed for the past year during the pandemic. Mask wearing and social distancing will still be required.

Kehner also announced that Council will resume in-person meetings for the public beginning June 8. Council has been holding meetings by teleconference for more than a year during the pandemic.

People attending the meetings will be required to wear masks and observe social distancing, Kehner said.

“We will try this and hope that we have no problems,” he said.

City Hall will be one of the municipal buildings reopening to the public beginning May 24.

The city’s reopening plans follow the state’s easing or removal of pandemic-related restrictions on outdoor gatherings and indoor capacity limits now that the number of coronavirus cases is dropping and the wide availability of the COVID-19 vaccines.

“We continue to receive good news about the reopening of the state,” Desiderio told the Council members at the meeting. “On May 19, capacity limits on outdoor gatherings, indoor dining, and other indoor activities will be removed. We are still subject to social distancing and mask wearing, especially in indoor settings, but all things considered, we are definitely moving in the right direction. On top of that, as of yesterday, we currently have no active COVID-19 cases in Sea Isle City.”