HACKENSACK, NJ -- With a push towards potential marijuana legalization being debated in the state legislature, the issue made its way to Hackensack on Tuesday night as the Mayor and City Council discussed the potential for dispensaries and other pot businesses in the city during the Council's work session meeting. While they stopped short of calling for an outright ban on legal weed sales, city officials showed little appetite for taking part in the burgeoning industry.
“One of my concerns is, medical marijuana is legal throughout the state and certain areas have had medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the state for years," said Mayor John Labrosse. "But all of a sudden, with Gov. Murphy looking toward legalizing recreational marijuana, there’s been a huge influx of interest for medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, which really piques my interest. Why now? How is that tied into medical marijuana? Is there any tie-in that once they become a medical marijuana dispensary, that they might have some loophole where they can become recreational? I’m just very concerned about that."
Labrosse referred to the push by the Murphy administration to expand the state's medical marijuana program. Six new medical cultivation licenses are expected to be issued this Fall, and thousands of new patients have entered the program since the Governor expanded the list of ailments to include anxiety, chronic pain and other issues.
"I’m not against medical marijuana, I think it has its purpose," said Labrosse. "Why all the interest now? I’ve had four people in the last two weeks reach out about medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. In the last five years, I haven’t had one. Why now?"
The Mayor's reluctance was shared by some of his fellow Council members, including Deputy Mayor Kathleen Canestrino who focused on the city's other pressing projects, namely its continuing downtown redevelopment.
“We have so much going on right now in the city, and especially in the hospital zone as well, that we don’t need another initiative at this point," said Canestrino. "I think we’ve got enough on our plate that we’re handling. I would say, at this point in time, I would not be looking into adding another initiative."
Councilwoman Stephanie Von Rudenborg advocated that the city take a wait and see approach to see what action the state legislature takes before moving forward on any local restrictions.
The issue of marijuana legalization has garnered consistent headlines in the state and public opinion of the concept seems to be growing. A Quinnipiac University poll released this week shows that 62% of New Jersey residents believe adults should be able to use marijuana legally. A smaller number, however, said they would support legal marijuana sales in their community at just 50%.