Mike Davis and Jessie Gomez discuss the new marijuana laws in NJ with Municipal Prosecutor J.H. Barr and Executive Director of the ACLU-NJ Amol Sinha.
HASBROUCK HEIGHTS — The borough has joined the ranks of Wayne and several other North Jersey communities in formally prohibiting the cultivation and sale of marijuana.
The council was divided on the ban, with the four Republicans voting in favor of it while the two Democrats were opposed.
Mayor John “Jack” DeLorenzo was among those supporting the ban.
“I do not believe allowing the sale of recreational marijuana is in the best interest of our community,” he said. “The risks and issues that could occur outweigh and possible or potential benefits, and I don’t think it’s worth it,” he said. He also said such sales would send the wrong message to children.
A handful of residents spoke on both sides of the issue. Those in favor of marijuana sales, including Elizabeth Saunders, explained that non-residential areas of town could host the shops. But Jennifer Pennisi, a supporter of the ban, said legalizing the sale of cannabis would “most definitely attract the wrong type of crowd.”
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Councilman Christopher Hillman voted against the ban, saying, “I think that we shouldn’t be doing it this way, and there was room for compromise.”
The borough was among the first to preemptively ban sales in 2018 when Gov. Phil Murphy announced his intent to legalize recreational sales. At that time, DeLorenzo said he didn’t believe the move was premature because people were already starting to look for property and put plans in place to open marijuana retail stores. He also noted that more than a third of the town is technically in a “Drug-Free Zone,” and allowing marijuana to be sold would send the wrong message.
This debate is happening throughout the state, in many places for the second time, because when New Jersey became the 13th state to permit marijuana sales, it also nullified local retail and cultivation bans already in place.
Municipalities have until Aug. 22 to pass legislation to regulate or restrict marijuana cultivation and distribution within municipal boundaries. If they do not do so, the next opportunity to enact limits will be in five years.
Legal weed operations will generate two state taxes and a municipal tax. The biggest cut of the revenues will be divided among “impact zones,” or certain cities where marijuana laws have historically been most harshly enforced.
Katie Sobko is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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