Long Beach Island’s Surf City is the latest Jersey Shore community to come out against recreational marijuana.
But the borough took the extra step of formally banning the sale, growing, and distribution of marijuana, a preemptive move ahead of possible legalization.
In January, Sen. Nicholas Scutari introduced a legalization measure allowing the recreational use and dispensing of marijuana along with commercial growing.
The pending legislation would permit possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of a marijuana infused product in solid form, 72 ounces in liquid form, and seven grams of concentrate, but would prohibit home cultivation and consuming marijuana openly.
If the bill is passed, Gov. Phil Murphy — who has estimated that legalization could deliver about $300 million in revenue — has said he would sign it. Municipalities that dispense marijuana, proponents say, would benefit from the sales tax, which under the bill would rise incrementally from 7 percent to 25 percent over five years to encourage early participation.
But Surf City wants no part of it. The ordinance states:
The sale, resale, purchase, acquisition, distribution, dispensation, and cultivation of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia are prohibited in the Borough of Surf City, notwithstanding any non-preemptive federal or state law to the contrary. Marijuana cultivation facilities, marijuana product manufacturing facilities, marijuana testing facilities, marijuana retailers, and marijuana establishments are prohibited in the Borough of Surf City, notwithstanding any non-preemptive federal or state law to the contrary.
Anyone who violates the ordinance could face up to 90 days in jail and fines up to $2,000.
At the Shore, officials in Asbury Park and Atlantic City say they support recreational sales, while the leaders in Point Pleasant Beach, Wildwood, Seaside Heights, Lavallette, and Berkeley Township do not. Toms River introduced a resolution to prohibit sales but tabled the matter.
The public’s view of legalization seems mixed. A February Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll showed 42 percent favor legalization, while roughly equal percentages of people backed either the status quo or only decriminalization. That poll surveyed 801 New Jersey residents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 points.
A September 2017 Quinnipiac University poll showed that 59 percent of residents approved of marijuana legalization. The poll surveyed 1,121 voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 points.
Nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana. New Jersey has a medical marijuana program that Murphy has said he wants to expand.