Even if marijuana becomes legal in New Jersey, township officials don’t want weed sold, grown or manufactured in their town.
The Wall Township Committee unanimously passed an ordinance that outlaws marijuana dispensaries, farms and manufacturing facilities in the 32-square-mile town, despite state legislators still deadlocked on whether the drug will even be legalized.
“I’m a product of the 1970s. I’ve been around (marijuana) my whole life,” Mayor Timothy Farrell said. “I’ve seen the good and the bad, and I’ve seen more bad than good.”
The vote followed nearly an hour of public comment from marijuana legalization advocates, begging the council to hold off on a vote or kill the ban completely.
“It should be tabled until everybody knows the facts,” M Street resident Royce Kremen said. “Whether you agree if it should be legal or not, people do it anyway. There’s land that could be cultivated for farmers, to bring money into the town.”
Towns throughout the state, including the Jersey Shore, have pushed back against marijuana legalization by banning the sale of the drug within their limits. Point Pleasant Beach started the trend in December, but other towns quickly followed suit.
Middletown and Toms River introduced ordinances to ban weed sales, but held off making a final decision until the Legislature actually puts forth a marijuana legalization measure.
Only a few cities — notably Jersey City and Asbury Park — have vocally announced their support of legal weed, with city officials saying they’d welcome a dispensary. But it will be incredibly difficult to get a retail license, which you can learn more about in a video at the top of this page.
Gov. Phil Murphy made marijuana legalization part of his campaign platform and has pledged to sign a legalization bill, citing social justice concerns and the disproportionate rate of arrests among black and white marijuana users.
While cannabis experts still expect a bill to be passed before June 30, opposition to marijuana legalization has mobilized over the last two months. Anti-weed lobbying groups have popped up at public hearings about marijuana legalization and a group of bipartisan legislators last week introduced a decriminalization bill, promoting it as compromise legislation.
A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll last month showed that 42 percent of New Jerseyans supported legal weed, while 26 percent want the drug decriminalized. A Gallup poll released in October showed that 64 percent of Americans supported legal weed.
Legislative estimates have said that the chief plan under consideration, with a 25 percent tax rate on marijuana sales, could bring in about $300 million in tax revenue and save more than $100 million on law enforcement costs.
Under that plan, towns that ban marijuana sales wouldn’t see a dime of pot revenue.
“The biggest issue in this town is our property taxes. We need as many businesses as possible in this town just to keep our heads afloat,” Pierce Street resident Dave Fretz said. “Why are you killing in the crib a golden opportunity for us to actually manage our property taxes? We need everything we can.”
Township Committeeman Nick DiRocco said he wasn’t “persuaded” by any potential revenue for the town.
“I think it’s reckless for us to sell the safety and security of our town to make a couple of bucks,” he said.
Marijuana still remains illegal on a federal level. In January, Attorney General Jeff Sessions withdrew an Obama administration policy not to interfere with state laws governing marijuana.