SOUTH AMBOY – The city is the latest municipality in Central Jersey to ban all marijuana businesses, including medical.
The City Council unanimously approved an ordinance at Wednesday night’s virtual meeting which prohibits all cannabis establishments, including cultivators, manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, retailers and delivery services, from operating anywhere in the city.
“This prohibition shall also apply in those parts of the city of South Amboy under the jurisdiction and authority of any independent state agency, commission or authority, notwithstanding any state law to the contrary,” the ordinance says.
“While cannabis is now legal in New Jersey the State Commission who will establish the rules and regulations has not yet completed their work,” Mayor Fred Henry said in an email. “Until we have a clear idea of how this industry will unfold over the next year and what effects it will have on the City of South Amboy I feel that the Council’s action was appropriate. Once the commission completes their work this is an issue that the City Council can revisit.”
Businesses engaged in the growth or sale of medicinal or recreational marijuana or paraphernalia that facilitates the use of marijuana are prohibited in all zoning districts, according to the ordinance.
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Delivery of cannabis and related supplies by a delivery service located outside the city is permitted, but only to the extent mandated by state law.
According to the ordinance, “the mayor and council have determined that due to uncertainties regarding the potential future impacts that allowing one or more classes of cannabis business might have on New Jersey municipalities in general, and on the city, in particular, it is at this time necessary and appropriate, and in the best interest of the health, safety and welfare of residents, as well as members of the public who visit, travel or conduct business in the city, to amend the city’s zoning regulations to prohibit all manner of marijuana-related land use and development within the geographical boundaries of the city.”
During the meeting, resident James Smith asked why the council is prohibiting cannabis businesses.
Council President Mickey Gross said, “It’s something the council, I think, feels is the right thing to do.”
Gross said he can’t speak for the entire council but said he would not be comfortable having these businesses in town.
“I’m against any restrictions of new businesses or small businesses in town,” Smith said. “I think we need more businesses and to restrict potential tax revenue I think isn’t a smart idea for the future.”
Resident Mike Vintzileos said he is a medical marijuana patient and has struggled with addiction for a long time.
“I was addicted to heroin and methadone for about 12 years and when I wasn’t using heroin, I was using methadone,” he said.
He said it was a “horrible existence.”
He said he used medical marijuana to deal with all the withdrawal symptoms and was able to get through it.
“I continue to use it to stay opiate free,” he said. “The therapeutic benefits of cannabis doesn’t just come with the card. All the marijuana is medicine. To further stigmatize medicine I think is doing a disservice.”
“For somebody who doesn’t have a medical marijuana card, who uses cannabis therapeutically for the medical benefits, they would be able to get it through the recreational industry and they’re just blocking more people out,” he added.
He said he thinks alcohol is “way worse of a substance.”
“In 2021 in this day and age to say no to these businesses is a prehistoric perspective,” Vintzileos said. “As a resident of this town it is honestly disgusting with all the alcohol that’s in this town. It’s not well thought out. It’s not a responsible approach and I don’t think it makes sense.”
He asked for council comments on why they are taking this stance.
After voting in favor of the ordinance, Second Ward Councilman Thomas Reilly said he consulted with a lady in town who runs a drug program for teenagers and parents.
“I did reach out to her and had a long discussion on this, and I based my decision voting yes on this on my discussion with her,” he said.
During council comments, First Ward Councilman Brian McLaughlin thanked the council for passing the marijuana ordinance.
“A business like that has no place in town,” he said.
The New Jersey State League of Municipalities and the New Jersey Institute of Local Government Attorneys have recommended that municipalities adopt ordinances outlawing marijuana businesses until all issues with the state legislation are resolved.
Under state law, if municipalities do not adopt a marijuana zoning ordinance by Aug. 22, six months after legalization went into effect, marijuana businesses would be allowed to operate in a municipality for five years.
However, a municipality can reverse its decision at any time. If the city does not pass the ordinance, it would not be allowed to prohibit marijuana businesses for at least five years.
Susan Loyer covers Middlesex County and more for MyCentralJersey.com. To get unlimited access to her work, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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