The City Council is expected to hear a measure this week that would ban the growing and selling recreational marijuana citywide, part of what Mayor Steve Fulop calls a long-term plan to avoid turning the city into “New York City’s drug dealer” if state lawmakers approve recreational pot use.
Fulop, a supporter of marijuana legalization, has said the second step of the city’s plan, after banning recreational pot cultivation and sales entirely, would be to limit the growing and sale of weed to specific zones chosen with input from residents. A city planner, in a March 19 memo to council members, compared that part of the plan to city zoning that allows for “restaurant rows.”
“I want residents to control the entire process and we won’t be caught flat footed by any changes to Trenton,” Fulop said on Facebook earlier this year. “We will be protected so that we chart our own course in Jersey City.”
The measure headed for initial council approval this week was rejected last month by the city Planning Board, with critics saying a citywide ban is premature. It may fare better in front of the nine-member council, which has six Fulop allies.
Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, has pledged to move forward with marijuana legalization. His proposed state budget assumes $60 million in taxes related to pot sales.
Two bills under review by state lawmakers would give municipalities one year to prohibit the operation of marijuana retail shops. If towns do nothing in that year, the retail shops would remain legal for five years.
No legalization plan has garnered enough support in the state Legislature to pass.
One of Fulop’s council allies, Councilwoman-at-large Joyce Watterman, opposed the mayor’s zoning proposal when it came before the Planning Board on Feb. 6 (she is a member). Watterman told The Jersey Journal she remains opposed.
Watterman said she does not support efforts by Democratic lawmakers to approve the sale of recreational marijuana because the drug won’t help those who are “less fortune.”
“When people are less fortunate they don’t have a job, when they don’t have a job they get depressed, when they get depressed they look for something to make them feel better. They go to alcohol and drugs,” she said. “It doesn’t help the situation.”
The council meets on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 280 Grove St.