Toms River council members introduced an ordinance Tuesday night that would ban the sale, dispensation, and cultivation of marijuana – should it become legal for recreational purposes – in the entire town.
Gov. Phil Murphy, sworn into office last week, has promised to sign a bill legalizing possessing small amount of pot, plus its legal sale and taxation, within 100 days of taking office. The bill most likely to end up on his desk allows municipalities to ban dispensaries within their borders, however possession would remain legal.
The ordinance was spearheaded by Councilman George Wittmann, who cited a ban as one of his priorities for the year during a reorganizational meeting earlier this month. Under the proposed legalization bill, municipalities would have the right to ban dispensaries for five years, at which point they could review the decision and change it.
The ordinance introduction was met with some hesitance. Councilwoman Laurie Huryk abstained from the matter, saying she needed more information on the proposed law and the issues surrounding it.
One resident, Christina Luland, spoke against the ordinance, citing studies that have shown opioid abuse has historically dropped in states that have legalized marijuana, and some reports of an increased number of car accidents have been overblown.
Then, there is the revenue question.
“All I’ve heard the past few years is, ‘we’re down in revenue after Sandy,'” said Luland. “How can you turn a business away?”
Paul Jeffrey, a resident of the Ortley Beach section, said council members should, at least, consider allowing wider dispensation of marijuana for medical use.
“I’d like the board to understand that medical use of marijuana is very important to some people,” he said.
Council President Brian Kubiel said the ordinance does not ban the sale of medical marijuana.
Toms River is the latest Shore community to introduce a marijuana sales ban. Point Pleasant Beach has already enacted an ordinance, and Seaside Heights and Lavallette are expected to follow. Brick Mayor John Ducey said he will wait to see the final law that is passed before making a decision on whether a ban would be beneficial or not. Asbury Park officials said they would welcome a dispensary in town.
The ordinance requires a second vote and public hearing before its final passage. That normally occurs at the following council meeting.