Jersey Shore town gets ‘ahead of the curve’ with marijuana retail ban
POINT PLEASANT BEACH — Despite Gov.-elect Phil Murphy's promise to legalize marijuana after he takes office in three weeks, this Ocean County borough has already banned any dispensaries from setting up shop.
Mayor Stephen Reid said the ordinance, which was adopted earlier this month, is meant to "get ahead of the curve" of the legalization of marijuana.
"We have a fun, family friendly town. A tourism town," he said. "It has an amazing school system, an amazing downtown, a lot of great stores and restaurants. We just don't want to see any dispensaries here."
While Point Pleasant Beach might be the first town on the Jersey Shore to adopt an ordinance banning dispensaries, Reid said he believes others will be following their lead.
"I can assure you that my phone's been ringing off the hook of mayors saying we don't want it in our town as well," he said. "There's a lot of mayors and council members and legislators who understand that they just don't want dispensaries in certain areas of the state and certain towns."
After New Jersey legalized medical marijuana in 2010, several towns fought the opening of dispensaries within their borders. The state now has five dispensaries, or alternative treatment centers, in Montclair, Egg Harbor, Woodbridge, Cranbury and Bellmawr, with a sixth set to open in Secaucus.
And while the governor-elect has said the recreational marijuana industry would be a boon for the state's economy, Reid said the issue is not about money in his town, which the ban would prevent them from sharing in those profits.
"Money has never been a concern here in this issue," he said. "I hope the governor, I hope the Legislature is not looking at this as a money issue. I think you need to look at it as society and is this what we want to basically pass on to our children? Is this what we want in our towns? Right now the answer is no in Point Pleasant Beach."
Because there are still a few weeks left until Murphy takes office and no vote to legalize marijuana is before the Legislature, Reid said he believes there is a misconception about what legalization would mean in the state.
"When you look at whether it's medical marijuana or just smoking marijuana as a pleasure, a lot of these people are under the influence that when it's legal they're going to be able to walk around, drive and just have a great time smoking marijuana," he said. "It's not like that at all. I wish the message would get out to the people that when it does become legal, you're not going to be able to walk down the street and smoke marijuana. You have to smoke in your house and that's the way it is."
And while he said his town has an active nightlife, including bars and restaurants, as well as liquor stores, Reid said he does not believe there is a comparison to be made between alcohol and marijuana.
"In our town we do have bars, we have restaurants, we have packaged goods, but it's legal. Its been legal for many years, but there's also rules that go with it," he said.
Reid said as a town in Ocean County, where the opioid epidemic is among the worst in the state, he does not want to see the legalization of marijuana add to an already difficult problem.
"The people trying to get marijuana approved, I think they're missing it," he said. "They say it's not a gateway drug. I say they're wrong and the people I've talked to who have been addicted many years with drugs always said that they started with marijuana."
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com