Two More Towns To Ban Cannabis Biz

March 12, 2018
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Oceanport’s governing body is taking steps to prohibit recreational and medicinal marijuana dispensaries in town, especially on Fort Monmouth, where officials say they have little control over what is developed there. Photo by Jay Cook

By Jay Cook |

OCEANPORT – Two more Two River-area towns have taken a stance on the issue of legalized cannabis.

Oceanport and Rumson are moving forward with local legislation prohibiting marijuana, elected officials from both towns told The Two River Times last week.

“I just don’t think that it fits in with the character of the town or the area,” said Joseph Irace, Oceanport Borough Council president.

Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl said the reason is simple: “Those aren’t the types of businesses that we want to attract to Rumson.”

Oceanport introduced a bill at the March 1 borough council meeting “prohibiting businesses engaged in the growth or sale of medicinal and recreational marijuana or paraphernalia in any zoning district,” according to the ordinance.

Oceanport is a 3.2-square-mile town with more than 5,800 residents and is “greatly concerned” about the establishment of a cannabis-based business, according to a draft of the ordinance. Oceanport officials would look to prohibit businesses from establishing within a quarter mile of any residence, church, school or recreational facility and stated that “no area” in town is fit to house a cannabis-related business.

The ordinance is expected to be up for public hearing and adoption at the next Oceanport Borough Council meeting, scheduled for March 15.

Irace said the zoning law is modeled after the one passed by the Point Pleasant Beach Borough Council in December.

“Because it’s a small town and a residential town, we really don’t have an area for any kind of marijuana dispensary or marijuana growing center,” Irace said.

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Because Oceanport, like Tinton Falls and Eatontown, is affected by decisions made in the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority’s redevelopment plan, Irace said the town wants to put its position about cannabis sales on the record. Eatontown has also had discussions about legalized marijuana.

“At this point, they’re basically auctioning it off to the highest bidder,” Irace said. “Our fear is, what’s going to stop somebody from coming into Fort Monmouth and all of a sudden Fort Monmouth becomes the guinea pig for the experimentation on legalized marijuana?”

Irace said with the new Oceanport borough hall, residential developments, care facilities and private businesses, Fort Monmouth is no place for a dispensary of any sort.

“We’re a small town,” he reiterated. “We have a small-town police force, we’re not a city and we don’t have a downtown area where people come and congregate.”

The same goes for Rumson, a borough nearly twice the size of Oceanport with about 1,000 more residents.

Ekdahl said Rumson’s two primary business districts – on West River Road before the Bingham Avenue intersection and East River Road before the intersection with Ridge Road – are stable enough. He believes there isn’t any desire to see a recreational cannabis business there.

“In Rumson, we’ve got your basics and that’s about it,” he said. “We think we would just not rather see those types of businesses in our small business districts.

“I guess you could call it our protest,” Ekdahl added. Rumson’s ordinance was first introduced at a Feb. 13 Borough Council meeting and will prohibit “the sale of medicinal and recreational marijuana, its derivatives, accessories and paraphernalia.”

At that same meeting, Rumson officials also received a letter from the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders referencing a resolution it passed formally opposing recreational marijuana in New Jersey. It was the first county in the state to do so.

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Rumson’s marijuana business prohibition ordinance is set for a public hearing at the next Borough Council meeting, March 13.

Both Ekdahl and Irace said their respective municipalities are not against residents using medicinal marijuana, they simply don’t want to see dispensaries in town.

Neither elected official was concerned about missing out on potential tax revenues generated through legalized recreational marijuana. A marijuana legalization bill was introduced into the state legislature early this year by state Sen. Nicholas P. Scutari (D-22). Ekdahl said the state government should be focusing on “the pension crisis we have going on and the extremely high property tax rates we have,” rather than legalizing marijuana.

MARIJUANA LAWS IN OTHER TOWNS

  • Hazlet’s governing body passed an ordinance on Feb. 20 prohibiting a number of different types of marijuana-related businesses in town. The zoning ordinance would not permit cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, retailers and medical marijuana centers.
  • Holmdel Township attorney Michael Collins said at a township meeting on Feb. 27 that the committee began obtaining advice about the laws governing marijuana and other potential ordinances the township could adopt. The committee discussed it further in executive session.
  • Fair Haven’s Borough Council had also floated the idea of passing a zoning ordinance prohibiting marijuana dispensaries in town earlier in February, yet that discussion hasn’t materialized into an actual ordinance or vote.
  • Other towns, like Atlantic Highlands, Colts Neck, Highlands, Monmouth Beach, Red Bank and Sea Bright have taken no official action against prohibiting recreational marijuana.

This article first appeared in the March 8-15, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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