Fair Haven Next to Try Recreational Pot Ban

April 16, 2018
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Although the Fair Haven Borough Council is looking to ban all recreational marijuana businesses, Mayor Benjamin Lucarelli said the borough will not be looking to prohibit medicinal marijuana businesses in town. Photo by Jay Cook

By Jay Cook |

FAIR HAVEN – Go ahead and add Fair Haven to the list of Two River-area towns taking a stand against the legalization of recreational cannabis inside their borders.

At its first of two April meetings on Monday evening, the Borough Council unanimously voted to introduce an ordinance which would prohibit “businesses selling recreational marijuana, its derivatives, accessories and/or the paraphernalia that facilitate the use of such” inside the 2- square-mile town.

There’s one caveat though: There will be no prohibition on any business related to medicinal marijuana.

The motion still makes Fair Haven, a small riverside borough with a population around 6,000, the fifth of 13 Two River-area towns to take some sort of local legislative action prohibiting or denouncing recreational marijuana.

For Fair Haven Mayor Benjamin Lucarelli, the decision to seek out a ban on recreational cannabis dispensaries is more about maintaining the aura and atmosphere of Fair Haven than anything else.

“It’s a reaction that a lot of towns have. It’s the unknown,” Lucarelli said after the ordinance introduction on Monday. “We have a borough where we put family-friendly (ideals) first and foremost and we thought that that type of shop would be inappropriate for our borough.”

Fair Haven will have a public hearing and final vote of the ordinance on May 29 after it’s been reviewed by the planning and zoning boards.

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Lucarelli did point out that Fair Haven would “leave it open” for medicinal marijuana businesses to come to town. He noted it’s not the borough’s prerogative to encumber residential access to medical marijuana if Fair Haven homeowners do indeed need it.

“In the opinion of our council, there’s medicinal benefits to it,” he continued. “That’s why it should no longer be a Class-1 substance, it should be a Class-4 substance. But that’s not our problem.”

The borough’s ordinance is technically an amendment to its land use development regulations, which lists each of the prohibited uses in Fair Haven. If approved, a recreational marijuana business would become the 24th prohibited use in the borough, joining peep show businesses, adult book stores, slaughterhouses, open air drive-in movie theaters and the using of boats or vehicles as dwellings, all illegal uses of land in Fair Haven.

Prospective business owners looking to open a recreational cannabis business in Fair Haven after May 29 would need to demonstrate a higher burden of proof and achieve a supermajority from the borough zoning board to open doors in town.

“It might certainly be appropriate for Red Bank or Asbury Park, communities that want to adopt that,” said Lucarelli, “but not for ours.”

Asbury Park officials have said they would be open to recreational cannabis dispensaries in town, but the Red Bank Borough Council has yet to take an official stance.

Later in the evening, Fair Haven officials also approved a resolution opposing the legalization of recreational marijuana in New Jersey. The formality is almost identical in nature to the resolution approved by the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders on Jan. 25. At the time, Monmouth County was the first county in New Jersey to formally oppose legalization.

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The resolution states a number of concerns the Borough Council has about legalized cannabis, namely higher rates of traffic fatalities noted in Colorado since legalization was approved, rising levels of potency since the 1980s and the belief that marijuana usage is associated with addiction, respiratory illness and cognitive impairment.

The four other towns to take local action on the prohibition of the legalized marijuana industry are Middletown, Rumson, Oceanport and Shrewsbury. Middletown only introduced an ordinance that would prohibit businesses that sell, grow and produce recreational marijuana while also looking to create standards for a medicinal facility. There is no timetable as to when it would vote on the ordinance.

Rumson and Oceanport both pushed for local laws to ban any medicinal and recreational marijuana businesses in their respective towns. Rumson had passed that law, while Oceanport will hold a public hearing on April 19.

Shrewsbury was the first town to go on the record in opposition to a dispensary. The borough council approved legislation in December prohibiting any medicinal cannabis uses.

Other Two River-area towns like Atlantic Highlands, Colts Neck, Highlands, Holmdel, Little Silver, Monmouth Beach, Red Bank and Sea Bright haven’t yet introduced laws about their support or opposition to recreational or medicinal marijuana.

This article was first published in the April 12-19, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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