A second New Jersey county has come out against legal weed, as the Ocean County freeholders voted on Thursday to formally oppose recreational marijuana legalization.
The board voted 4-0, with Freeholder John Kelly absent, to pass a resolution opposing the legalization of recreational marijuana and encouraging Ocean County towns to take a similar stance.
The resolution said that the freeholder board “opposes the enactment of legislation to legalize the recreational use and sale of marijuana and further encourages Ocean County municipalities to join with Ocean County in opposing this issue.”
Ocean County followed its northern neighbor in formally opposing recreational marijuana; Monmouth County passed a similar resolution last month.
“I think it’s uncharted water, at least for us, and I think it’s a matter we should avoid,” said Monmouth County Freeholder Lillian Burry, adding that she thinks recreational marijuana is a big law enforcement concern.
Monmouth and Ocean are the first New Jersey counties to formally oppose weed legalization, but the opposition from both counties is largely symbolic, as the counties don’t have any legal control over the municipalities and can’t force them to ban weed.
Still, a few Ocean County towns have already taken steps away from recreational marijuana. Point Pleasant Beach has voted to ban weed sales in the town, while Berkeley and Toms River have introduced ordinances to prohibit pot shops. Seaside Heights and several other towns across the state are considering a similar move.
Two of New Jersey’s most prominent towns, Asbury Park and Jersey City, have said they would welcome legal marijuana.
While counties and towns are starting to stake their positions on recreational marijuana, lawmakers are still very early in the process of debating the issue.
State Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, introduced a recreational bill into the Senate last month and Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer, is expected to propose another legalization bill in the coming days.
Marijuana advocates and lobbyists have criticized local officials for opposing marijuana without knowing what a legal weed bill will contain. Scott Rudder, president of the New Jersey Cannabusiness Association, called the opposition “premature.”
Rudder’s group is holding an event later this month that aims to educate local officials on marijuana legalization and how towns can cope with it.