MILLBURN, NJ — In a unanimous decision that signals a step back on the idea of medicinal marijuana facilities in township borders, the Millburn Township Committee voted to stop discussion on guidelines for such businesses to apply for space in the township.
Resolution 20-069, which was on the docket at last night's meeting, would have established a series of procedures for prospective alternative treatment centers looking to open up in Millburn.
The guidelines for proposal would have allowed any medicinal marijuana stores looking to open up a number of conditions that if met, would have made approval likely.
At the meeting, it was mentioned that one such business was apparently looking to come into the abandoned Wine Shop building at 704 Morris Turnpike in Short Hills, but as of publication, TAP into Millburn/Short Hills could not independently confirm wether that was speculation or fact, as the resolution was simply about guidelines, and not approval.
After the spread of the story by social media and word of mouth over the past week, large number of Millburn Township residents showed up to the meeting to speak against moving forward past the first reading stage.
All the residents who spoke before the township committee had similar concerns about a medicinal marijuana dispensary, including public safety in the area, diversion of resources from police and courts and in particular for the speculated Morris Turnpike location, traffic snarls and backups.
Additionally, another concern was that when recreational marijuana becomes legal at some point, that the shop would then also open up a separate counter for those sales.
Following the testimony from multiple town residents, the township committee took a vote to rescind the measure from the table without proceeding any further at the current time. The vote on that front was unanimous, and as a result, the resolution will not proceed for the time being.
Residents who had spoken at the meeting were happy with its conclusion. One of those residents was Nina Arora, who said she was happy with the way the township listened to those in attendance.
"I'm thrilled," Arora said. "I mean beyond thrilled for my kids safety, for all of us here in town, they just heard our voices and I'm just pleasantly surprised and happy."
She also noted that in her opinion, residents should have more awareness and information about the subject at hand, which she said lead to residents speaking out against the agenda item yesterday evening.
"I think everyone needs to be aware of the situation around [medicinal marijuana]," Arora added "There's just so much to be said. There's just so many facets to it. And of course there's always another side to it. But clearly, we don't want this in our backyard."
Another person who spoke at last night's meeting was fellow township resident Jean Gerardo. She echoed the points that Arora and many others made and said that in her opinion, the proposed location that had apparently been speculated about was not suitable for such a business to open up in.
"It does not belong in this area, especially the area they were thinking of putting it in," Gerardo said. "It's too many children, it's a residential area, you're too close to the Glenwood school and the high school, and the amount of traffic and the amount of crime that I think we would have had would have been detrimental to the town."
Not all people in attendance at the meeting, however, were in support of rescinding the measure. Carl Burwell Jr., a co-owner of Garden State Hemp in downtown Millburn said that to him, the move to rescind the resolution came too quickly, and that there should have been a more wide-ranging public survey of some kind.
"I think that unfortunately the township committee moved a little too quickly to rescind the resolution," Burwell Jr. said. "I think a little bit more discussion into some of the benefits could have been [had], and going to referendum speaking to all township residents and allowing them an opportunity to vote, because some people don't like to speak publicly on the matter."
Burwell continued, saying, "Hopefully further down the line, the township committee can maybe circle back to speaking to more residents, because as one of the township committee members mentioned, when an instance like this pops up, most of the people that show up are the ones who oppose it."
He also still believes there are benefits to CBD and that a dispensary in town could do more good than harm, and that more education needs to happen.
Millburn Township Mayor Jackie Lieberberg said after the meeting that while she did not know if an application had been submitted, that was not the point of the resolution on the table.
"Whether or not [the dispensary] had an application, or whether or not they signed a lease, to me that's irrelevant," Lieberberg said. "What's important is that this board decided that this has no place in the community."
Leierberg also said that it was key to have heard from town residents on the matter, which she said helped to inform their final decision.
"It's always vital and very important to hear from our residents," Lieberberg said. "This was an issues that was very close to a lot of people's hearts, so we received a tremendous amount of emails leading up to this for the last two weeks. There's been a tremendous amount of attention on social media, so this is an issue that hits a lot of people close to home, and I'm grateful that we could address it in a timely fashion."