Recreational cannabis isn’t even legal in New Jersey. Yet while lawmakers debate what, if any, marijuana legislation they want to introduce, some municipalities are already deciding for them. Over the past few months, a groundswell of anti-cannabis advocacy has coincided with a number of cities opting out of a legal-weed future. Continuing a trend set by Point Pleasant Beach last December, these New Jersey Towns are preemptively banning cannabis businesses.
Middleton Township, Wall Township, towns in Monmouth County and Ocean County like Berkeley and Toms River, Seaside Heights and several other towns across New Jersey have all voted or are planning to vote to ban cannabis businesses.
Some are also passing ordinances banning farms and manufacturing facilities in addition to dispensaries. Officials in these areas are also vocally opposing legalization efforts.
Counties’ opposition to legal weed is for the most part symbolic. But the official positions of county boards can be influential in shaping the stance its towns ultimately take.
Ocean County, for example, has passed a resolution opposing marijuana legalization and encouraging towns to make the same call.
Pro-cannabis advocacy groups have been somewhat taken by surprise at the sudden surge in opposition to legalization. The earliest New Jersey could vote on a legal recreational measure is June 30 of this year.
That’s why president of the New Jersey Cannabusiness Association Scott Rudder called the opposition “premature.”
Even though these New Jersey towns are preemptively banning cannabis businesses, other towns in the state have eagerly and enthusiastically embraced the possibility of legalization.
New Jersey Towns Take Opposing Positions On Legal Weed
In a January tweet, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop expressed his support for legalization. Fulop is also beginning to work with the city’s planning department and local residents to establish clear zoning rules for cannabis businesses.
City officials in Asbury Park, including Mayor John Moor and Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn, have also come out in support of legal weed businesses. “We don’t have an issue if it’s regulated and taxed,” Quinn said. Indeed, a recent report by New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform estimated that a 25 percent tax on cannabis at the point of sale would provide about $300 million in the first year.
Both Jersey City and Asbury Park are among the more high-profile destinations in New Jersey. Their openness to a legal cannabis program may help overcome the opposition from other towns in the state.
Final Hit: These New Jersey Towns Are Preemptively Banning Cannabis Businesses
It’s not unusual for particular towns to enact bans on cannabis businesses despite state-wide legalization. Usually, however, towns wait until after a legalization measure passes, or at least until lawmakers propose one.
But opponents of legal cannabis in New Jersey have their work cut out for them. Governor Phil Murphy has vowed to sign a legalization bill in his first 100 days in office. Gov. Murphy is an outspoken advocate of cannabis who made legalization a major part of his platform.
The most recent proposal, legislation co-sponsored by state Sen. Ronald Rice, aims at a compromise. The bill proposes to decriminalize, but not outright legalize cannabis. Rice is also skeptical of arguments that tax money from cannabis sales can solve “the woes of the state”. Other residents hesitant to embrace legalization argue that dispensaries profit off of vulnerable communities and individuals.
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