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North Jersey Towns Cannabis Industry Bans: Part I

Greg Silverstein | January 12, 2021 | 3 0
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North Jersey is a critical market for the newly legalized New Jersey cannabis industry, the New York City demand will likely flow towards the eastern most New Jersey dispensaries including Bergen and Hudson counties. The state of New Jersey is legalizing cannabis for adult use but there are many local governments using ordinance bans to prevent cannabis companies from operating. Some of these towns are totally against the cannabis industry while others are just restricting recreational / adult use business activity. In some cases, these municipalities are stuck in the past with poorly constructed laws that restrict their own medical cannabis businesses. Medical cannabis operators are now stuck with a dispensary that can not be converted to adult use sales making them ideal for patients but damaging for ownership groups and tax revenue growth. 

Looking at the list of towns you can see many of them allow medical sales which is frankly ridiculous given the lack of maturity in the NJ industry. There are still only a handful of dispensaries and the majority of these locations are recent application participants or the result of M&A. Towns looking to allow medical cannabis but ban adult use are not properly analyzing the situation. Given the lack of market maturity and the conversion to recreational sales no business will even look at a banned town or city for their new locations. New Jersey will be a major market and towns that shun cannabis now might lose out on millions of dollars in annual economic benefits. 

The state of New Jersey cannabis licensing program is broken up into three geographic regions, North, Central, and South. The Northern region is made up of Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Sussex, and Warren counties. In the Northern region there are 36 municipalities that have banned cannabis businesses. Some of these governments are actively harming existing businesses with hesitations while others are looking at cannabis with an old-world view point that hurts potential economic growth. A majority of these towns are in Bergen County which is also the largest county by population and one of the most important economic regions in the state. Bergen County is full of bans but you will still be able to find new dispensaries in the Paramus area. My brother thinks they created Central Jersey to suppress North Jersey dominance.      

Some of these towns will surprise you as they are obvious locations for strong cannabis businesses and even existing cannabis related business. There are many different reasons why a town might place an ordinance banning cannabis sales. In many cases these bans are a simple way of telling all cannabis related businesses they will not be approving any applications any time soon. In some cases, these towns just don’t want to be the first few cannabis towns in the state, while others are living in the past with clear hostility towards consumers and operators. I have also found many towns near the state border that are creating larger geographic areas where there will effectively be zero cannabis sales for many miles along the border. 

This is North Jersey, we need to talk about The Sopranos themed businesses near these locations including Lodi, North Caldwell, and Ramsey. One day we might get Tony’s cigar sized blunt but not anytime soon. We also need to give a shout out to my home town Montclair New Jersey. I am officially declaring Montclair the cannabis capital of the state. Not only is Montclair home to the first dispensary in the state; we have a smoke shop celebrating their 50th anniversary and the community is able to support 3 full-service smoke shops. 

Here is a list of every town in the northern region that we know of with a cannabis ban. Please let us know in the comments if you live in one of these towns and if they have a strong cannabis culture. This information is sourced from NJ 101.5 article from October 13, 2020. There are currently no bans in Sussex or Warren counties that we are aware of. Please let us know if we missed any community with a ban on cannabis related businesses. If you live or work in North Jersey please let us know if you have a favorite smoke shop or dispensary. While it is illegal and we do not encourage it, it is a fact that out of state residents make up a sizable percentage of monthly sales in states like Illinois and Massachusetts. New Jersey could have the largest out of state demand in the country thus far with New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland all within driving distance and this will impact bans and supply and demand shifts. 

Bergen County 

Population 932,202  

Allendale – Population 6,792 Northern New Jersey near the border of New York State. 

Carlstadt- Population 6,191 small town in a densely populated area near major traffic routes. Allows for medical use sales but bans recreational sales. 

East Rutherford – Population 9,764 best known for the home of the NY Jets and NY Giants meadowlands. Not only did East Rutherford just open a $5 Billion mall with an amusement park. They also opened a full sports book behind the stadium. East Rutherford would be the perfect location for a mega sized dispensary behind the stadium but that day won’t be any time soon as the town only allows medical sales. 

Elmwood Park – Population 20,120 a medium sized town on the edge of Passaic and Essex County near Patterson with major transit routes like RT 80 and the Garden State Parkway. 

Emerson- Population 7,643 a small town near the northern border of New York State. In the woods, about 2 square miles in size. Located in an area with many recreational sales bans. 

Franklin Lakes – Population 11,096 small town near the Ramapo region and the New York state line. This town allows medical cannabis sales but bans recreational sales. 

Garfield – Population 31,866 near the Garden State Parkway, small 2 square mile town with a dense population along the Passaic river.  

Hasbrouck Heights - Population 12,080 in the middle of RT 17 near the meadowlands and private airport Teterboro. One of the largest smoke shop businesses in New Jersey has a location in this town. Because of RT 17 Hasbrouck Heights is a perfect location for a retail location. The town allows medical cannabis sales but bans recreational sales.

Lodi – Population 24,551 Lodi is home to the famous strip club from the Sopranos Satin Dolls AKA The Bada Bing. Lodi has banned cannabis for medical and adult use sales. One day I hope we will see a Sopranos themed dispensary in North Jersey but it won’t be next to Bing.  

Mahwah – Population 26,380 in the woods near other Ramapo area towns, Mahwah is on the New York state line and is part of a collection of North Jersey towns that create a large geographic ban on cannabis sale. Mahwah is also one of the large towns in the Ramapo area and has a large commercial area along RT 17, also along I-287 between RT 23 and the New York state line. 

Midland Park – Population 7,265 another small town in the northern region, Midland Park is close to Ridgewood and Wyckoff. Suburban area near New York City and New York state. This town allows medical sales but restricts recreational sales. 

Montvale – Population 8,600 one of the wealthier towns in the area on the border of NY state. Montvale is on the Garden State Parkway and the border of New York making it an obvious target for out of state sales. This town allows medical use sales but restricts recreational sales. 

Oakland – Population 13,021 part of the large geographic area with cannabis bans. This town allows medical use sales and is located a few miles away from New York along I-287 and close to Mahwah.

Old Tappan – Population 5,946 on the edge of New York and New Jersey. This is a small town with an affluent population near other major areas with cannabis bans. This town has the ‘strategic’ desire to prevent New York residents from purchasing legally in its jurisdiction and then violating state laws by leaving the state of New Jersey. 

Palisades Park – Population 20,820 near I-80 and the George Washington Bridge. Close to the New York City entrance and ideal for out of state sales.    

Ramsey – Population 14,991 well known by The Sopranos and a major town in the Bergen area. Ramsey Sports and Outdoors is a bust out joint for Tony and his crew. A fictitious store owner and gambler borrowed money from the mob for gambling and could not pay it back. The sporting goods store is a real place and has multiple locations. Ramsey is another town on RT 17 that could have a strong retail cannabis business. The town is only a few miles away from the border and close to I-287.  

Ridgewood – Population 25,272 one of the wealthiest towns in New Jersey Ridgewood is one of the few towns in Bergen county with a strong residential retail footprint. Ridgewood has a major train stop and many shops, restaurants, and some art galleries. This is a relatively large commuter town with many luxurious single family homes overlooking New York City. This is one of the many surprises for economic reasons but residents might have a better understanding of the cannabis culture in Ridgewood. I expect most residents will look towards RT 17 locations like the Paramus area.  

Saddle Brook – Population 13,930 close to multiple major shopping areas, near Lodi, Maywood, and Elmwood Park. Saddle Brook is one of many towns in this area with cannabis sales bans. This allows for medical use sales. 

Saddle River – Population 3,197 near the NY state border Saddle River is known for large homes in the woods. Near Upper Saddle River and Ramsey, this town is one of many in a large geographic region with a cannabis sales ban. 

Upper Saddle River – Population 8,270 near the NY state border Upper Saddle River is a very wealthy area with massive homes in the woods and mountains. Near Saddle River and Ramsey this area is near a large area the closest dispensary is currently in Paterson and the new locations will open sometime soon in the Paramus shopping area.

Waldwick – Population 10,207 a small town in Bergen county near Saddle River and Ho-Ho-Kus. This town allows medical for medical use sales.

Westwood – Population 11,155 a small town in Bergen county near Emerson. Relatively close to the NY state border. This town has a ban on all sales and was vetoed by the mayor to pursue medical sales in 2018.  

Woodcliff Lake – Population 5,862 a small town near Montvale along the NY state border. Part of the region with a large ban on cannabis sales. 

Wyckoff – Population 17,068 close to Ridgewood and Franklin Lakes. 

Essex County 

North Caldwell - Population 6,618 a small town near major shopping areas in the WillowBrook Mall in Wayne. Home of Tony Soprano and The Soprano home which is already a tourist attraction. This is a quiet town with almost no commercial real estate. The town allows for medical use but it’s unclear where this kind of business would be located. Given the existing casual Sopranos traffic I don’t expect anyone to open in North Caldwell; however, a Sopranos consumption lounge would be awesome.  

West Caldwell – Population 10,868 close to Fairfield and Verona. West Caldwell is full of commercial areas along Bloomfield Avenue and the town makes a perfect location for a retail cannabis location. This might be a short-term ban for timing or a declaration to operators, put your West Essex locations in surrounding towns like Montclair, Fairfield, or Livingston. There is a great smoke shop right near the Livingston area.   

Hudson County 

Secaucus - Population 20,742 one of the few towns in NJ with a medical dispensary and a recreational sales ban. As far as we know this is one of four towns in northern New Jersey with a medical cannabis dispensary. There are new locations coming but right now only a few are open and operating dispensaries. Secaucus is one of the original towns to welcome a dispensary in North Jersey. Secaucus is a well-known commuter town with a main connection to New York City via bus or train. Secaucus has a main junction train station that connects to every major NJ transit line similar to NY Penn Station. The train hub also connects to the meadowlands MetLife stadium and the massive American Dream Mall in East Rutherford. I expect this town to eventually change their stance on recreational sales to help their existing operator but they are clearly saying they don’t want to be inundated with customers and lines from all around the state and surrounding states. 

Union City – Population 68,5898 one of the largest towns in the northern region and the state with a cannabis ban. Union City is a densely populated area in the heart of Hudson county and while I expect the town will eventually have multiple cannabis businesses, they don’t want to be involved in the initial permitting process. Given there are neighboring towns like Hoboken and Jersey City fighting over market share and licensing it makes sense Union City will let other towns compete for initial locations. Hudson county is a hot market and there will be plenty of local dispensaries in the area. Residents of Union City will just have to travel to neighboring locations.  

Morris County 

Chatham Township – Population 10,284 Chatham is one of the large towns with two separate municipalities that share services. Chatham township has a ban on all cannabis sales. The town is close to the Short Hills mall and RT 124 and RT 24. This area is nearby Summit Madison and Drew University.   

Chester – Population 1,644 a large rural town in the woods near Bedminster and Mt. Olive with multiple wildlife management areas in this region of the state.  

Harding – Population 3,824 a large town in the woods along I-287 in between Basking Ridge and Morristown. 

Parsippany – Troy Hills - Population 52,265 a major town in Morris County along major traffic hubs near I-80 I-280 and I-287 which all go through the town and intersect. One of the biggest towns on this list commonly known as Parsippany, this town surrounds all of the major towns in the Morris County area. 

Passaic County 

Clifton – Population 85,273 Clifton is one of the largest towns in New Jersey, it is the 11th most populated town in the state and is 11.43 square miles in area. Clifton might be one of the most shocking bans in terms of North Jersey, not only does the town have plenty of suitable commercial real estate but a thriving restaurant business including multiple shopping centers and nearly 100,000 people. The town allows for medical sales but don’t expect to see any locations anytime soon as this would be an ideal recreational market. Clifton is right next to Patterson and Montclair which both have dispensary locations but those are many miles apart leaving a massive opportunity for surrounding towns and this area could sustain multiple dispensaries.  

Hawthorne – Population 18,786 a medium sized town near Paterson and Fair Lawn, this town is close to one of the areas with multiple cannabis bans like Ridgewood and Elmwood Park. RT 208 cuts through Hawthorne, in 2014 the township passed an ordinance prohibiting big box retailers. 

North Haledon – Population 8,446 this town is on the edge of Wayne and the William Paterson University campus where there is a large residential housing area for students and local residents. Although this area is smaller than other big NJ colleges with off campus housing it does represent a sizable market. This student area is between North Haledon, Hawthorne, and Wayne a mile or two up the road. 

Wayne – Population 53,657 one of the largest towns with a major cannabis ban, Wayne is a large town with multiple shopping areas that could house all forms of cannabis businesses. Between the restaurants, Willow brook mall, shopping, and vast number of convenience stores Wayne is another prime destination for operators looking to capture outsides market share. Wayne is surrounded by many other small towns that don’t have the real estate or citizenship to push demand for additional locations. I expect Wayne to lift this ban over the next five years as legalization drives progress on the cannabis stigma. 

Please let us know in the comments if we missed any key locations or relevant businesses and regions. 



Before NJ gets to Vote, these towns already said ‘NO’ to legal Marijuana – NJ 101.5    


American Dream Mall East Rutherford 



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