Mayors weigh in on the future of legal weed in their towns

There are more than 60 towns that have banned marijuana sales before the law is even passed. Brick Mayor John Ducey is one of them.

“As far as recreational marijuana, we decided not to have the stores, the cultivation, manufacturing and testing done here in Brick Township. Basically we have a big senior population and they don’t seem to be in favor of it,” said Ducey.

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka thought the bill didn’t go far enough in expunging criminal records of nonviolent marijuana offenders. They initially threatened to ban the sale of marijuana in the state’s two largest cities.

“It is highly hypocritical to tell people that we’re now going to legalize marijuana, but you have to stay in jail. Or we’re going to make it legal for people to distribute large amounts of marijuana, sell large amounts of marijuana, and you’ve been arrested for less than that amount and we can’t get your record expunged, or we can only virtually expunge your record,” Baraka said in testimony before an Assembly committee on March 18.

“I think that you need to expand the expungement component so that all nonviolent offenders can see expungement. And I think we need more dollars allocated towards the automatic expungement,” Fulop said.

Although the bill didn’t change, Baraka and Fulop came to support it after the Murphy administration promised to address the expungement issue if and when it becomes law.

Fulop would also like to see the state offer more tax incentives for the communities that allow dispensaries.

“We wish that the local component of the tax share would be more significant than what it is. Right now it’s in the 2 to 3 percent range, which is a little bit light compared to some of the other states that have done this,” Fulop said.

Ducey also says that with a tax rate that low, the economics just don’t make sense.

“When you give that 3 percent that the state was allowing us to tax, it would end up being $75,000. That $75,000 would barely, if it does, cover the employee that has to go around to each of those businesses to collect the actual cash proceeds,” Ducey said.

The New Jersey League of Municipalities supports a town’s right to decide.

“What is the general sentiment of the community? If the community’s not ready to accept, if they just don’t think it’s right for their community, that’s as important as any cost-benefit analysis that could possibly be done,” said Michael Cerra, assistant executive director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities.

If the bill passes, towns will have 180 days to ban the growth and sale of marijuana. Towns that have already implemented a ban will have to pass the ordinance a second time in order for it to take effect.

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