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Half of New Jersey’s Towns Want to Ban Cannabis, Despite Resident Approval

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Last election season, New Jersey residents voted to legalize adult-use cannabis with 67 percent of state voters backing up the decision. However, many of those voters agree that they’d prefer not to see cannabis dispensaries popping up in their own neighborhoods.

On August 21, a deadline must be met concerning varying aspects of cannabis operations, including the ability to open retail. Almost half the state’s municipalities are opting out of allowing marijuana retail, wholesale, and other manufacturing facilities. This is even with a chance to collect up to two percent in taxes and licensing fees.

While some argue the industry may put children at danger, most prefer to wait and see how this marketplace operates. In other words, with so many neighboring towns choosing to open shops, most municipalities would prefer to see how everything goes before inviting the industry into their own town.

Since towns choosing to forgo the opportunity can enter the marketplace whenever they please, there’s little risk on their end.

Still, there remains a number of towns that are opting out for their own safety. For example, in Bergen county, 10 neighboring towns have decided not to open dispensaries as they’d be located in “places of public accommodation frequented by the public, including children.”

Union City also opposes opening shops even though the mayor, Brian Stack, is also a state senator who voted in favor of cannabis legalization.

Finally, Jersey Shore refuses to allow cannabis operations. As one councilman (a medical marijuana patient) put it, the tourist destination would turn into a “smokefest on the beaches and boardwalk.” The mayor of Jersey Store stated that residents “didn’t vote for 17-year-olds to become drug users, they didn’t vote for some overtaxed product so some MS-13 gangbanger can come in here and undercut [the legal market].”

Perhaps the biggest concern of all from the 240 towns that are estimated to ban the industry is the fact that New Jersey’s new Cannabis Regulatory Commission hasn’t devised any regulations yet. These laws are also due by August, and will likely reflect other legal states—however, most New Jerseyans still aren’t sure just what’s ahead of them.

Avoiding Mistakes of a New Industry in New Jersey

While the complaints made by officials are understandable, the fact of the matter is cannabis has been legalized statewide. So, someone in Jersey Shore can easily purchase a joint in a neighboring city and puff up on the beach.

Of course, it’s still illegal to consume marijuana in public through smoking, vaping, and aerosolizing methods. Therefore, many of the concerns by public officials are already protected under New Jersey law.

Truly, most officials are simply waiting for the industry to work itself out in the state before getting their piece of the pie.

“The people who want marijuana in Livingston are very vocal and really want it,” Mayor Shawn Klein of Livingston, who forgoed cannabis operations, told The Gothamist. “I thought it was important to be very clear about what [were] the open questions, because they’re worried we’re going to use this as a delay tactic.”

The truth of the matter is most towns aren’t avoiding the inevitable—if you live in New Jersey, chances are you’ll see a dispensary in your town within the next five to ten years.

Rather, they’re avoiding potential mistakes that can arise due to a lack of regulatory framework. These include security protocols, parking requirements, and whether or not a town has the right to revoke someone’s license.

“We just don’t know what we’re allowed to do as a town,” he concluded.

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