My reputation as NJ’s most notorious (caucasian) pothead proceeded me in Atlantic City, site of last week’s epic League of Municipalities convention. Quite a few attendees were curious if I had any advise how their town might roll out the welcome mat to marijuana business.
And also how to repel the prohibitionists who are taking a town-by-town strategy as they cling to the last vestiges of cannabis prohibition.
I have plenty of advise on both counts.
NO WE CANN(t)ABIS !
First a PSA: marijuana is the best hangover salve. If cannabis can diminish or eliminate the side effect of chemotherapy, surely it can take care of your hangover. But cannabis isn’t legal for most people in NJ and being hungover is not a qualifying condition for medical marijuana in the Garden State.
NJ’s medical program is expanding and some form of recreational cannabis legalization is on the horizon. And yet, dozens of NJ municipalities have already voted against marijuana expansion.
The full list is here.
You’ll note some towns welcome medical cannabis and lean yes on recreational. Good for them for being open to the benefits of drug reform. But that list is mostly naysayers. NO to dispensaries and also NO to growing or processing facilities of any kind.
First of all, resolutions or actual bans of cannabis-related businesses won’t end the wider debate. It simply removes towns like Parsippany (Morris County) and Spotswood (Middlesex Co.) from the discussion.
Or, more accurately, they removed themselves.
“We believe such legalization is a great risk to our citizens’ quality of life,” the Spotswood resolution reads, specifically targeting “businesses selling, distributing, cultivating, growing and/or facilitating the sale and/or use of either recreation and or medicinal marijuana, including any ancillary or related paraphernalia.”
There have been nearly 200 heroin overdoses in Middlesex County already this year. But Spotswood’s town council is promoting marijuana abstention while pushing 1970s era pot myths. One town councillor said the whole thing was to “protect the children.”
What about children using medical cannabis? Or children whose parents get arrested for smoking a joint?
Or anyone of any age using cannabis therapy to help manage heroin detox.
Cannabis + Opiates
Cannabis is a powerful weapon in the battle against opiates. Having a non-opioid alternative for pain is valuable. There’s an ever-expanding body of peer-reviewed research that shows better opiate-related outcomes in states with liberalized cannabis laws. State like Colorado, where cannabis is legal, have seen their opiate-induced fatality rate shrink by 25%.
Cannabis also helps a lot of people kick hard drugs. I’m living proof. My drug of choice was meth and I liked to shoot it best. And you could kill an elephant herd with all those opiates I greedily snarfed up.
When my mother learned that I was smoking pot pretty much straight out of rehab in 2003, she was concerned. She had this idea that rehab should teach me to abstain from all drugs and alcohol forever. In fact, rehab is actually about developing the tools to make life manageable. Some people abstain. For others, it’s about moderation.
For most drug users, our addiction is symptomatic of a larger problem like pain or loneliness. A good rehab will focus on the problem (pain, trauma) and in many cases, the symptoms (addiction) become manageable and fixable.
Trenton NJ, population 86,000, sees cannabis reform very differently than they do in Spotswood and Parsippany.
“We want to be the first municipality that says yes and we’re marketing that to prospective developers.” Mayor Reed Gusciora told InsiderNJ.
“Trenton has a lot of abandoned properties, particularly there are four Roebling buildings, football field-sized! We have industrial areas that have vacant properties, warehousing that’s ready to use,” Gusciora told InsiderNJ. “ Juxtapose that with (dozens of) municipalities that passed resolutions saying ‘no, we don’t want grow facilities.’”
Instead of being reactionary and hysterical, Trenton wants to streamline the zoning process. Mayor Gusciora cited the six medical dispensaries already in operation throughout the state.
“The six municipalities that got licensure already, they had to go through a variance procedure because (dispensaries) are agricultural, manufacturing, and retail at the same time,” Gusciora explained. “So they’re all nonconforming uses and so they have to go through planning board zone changes in each municipality. We’re actually working on an ordinance where a marijuana grow facility would be a conforming use so they wouldn’t have to go through long-term legal proceedings.”
My advise to pro-pot officials at the League is to be like Reed Gusciora and plan ahead so you and your town can properly capitalize on the inevitable.
Instead of re-inventing the wheels, let’s look to Massachusetts where the sale of adult use cannabis begin this week. Dispensaries in MA will levy a 6.25% sales tax and a 10.75% excise tax on all marijuana sales. And more importantly for municipalities, local officials in Massachusetts may tack on a 3% local tax as they see fit.
According to the Marijuana Policy Project, “a study released in June by the (Massachusetts) Department of Public Health estimated adult marijuana sales would generate more than $200 million for the state and up to $3 million for local governments in the first two years alone.”
Towns in NJ like Spotswood and Parsippany, apparently they don’t need the jobs and they don’t want the ratables associated with legalized marijuana. Given their retrograde reaction to marijuana reform, they deserve neither. What they do deserve is to be left out of the cold where there’re relegated themselves.
They took their ball and went home. So bye.
The conversation about drug reform will continue without towns that want no parts of it. And if you think about it, that’s probably not a bad thing.
This debate is better and infinitely more productive without them anyway.
Jay Lassiter is a long time NJ civil liberties advocate. He wants to keep the government out of your bong.
(Visited 160 times, 160 visits today)
Full story is available here.