NORTH CALDWELL, NJ – After much discussion, the North Caldwell Borough Council voted on Tuesday to adopt an ordinance to restrict marijuana dispensaries in the borough, but advised the public that the ordinance can later be repealed depending on laws passed at the state level.

“This is not meant to keep cannabis out of town, but to let the Board of Adjustments determine if it is a properly laid-out establishment,” said Councilman John Chiaia.

North Caldwell resident Matt Atlas suggested to the mayor and council that the description of the ordinance is too vague and that the council is acting prematurely.

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Councilman Joshua Raymond agreed with Atlas that the council should wait to see what the state government does. A motion to table this ordinance was voted down 3-2, with Robert Kessler being the other council member to vote in favor of tabling the issue.

“If the intention of this ordinance is to keep marijuana out of our town, this ordinance will not cover and does not address the testing, cultivation or manufacturing of marijuana,” said Kessler.  

Chiaia said the reason he voted to adopt this ordinance is not to make a statement that the town is banning marijuana, but to encourage responsible planning.

“We have obligations to set up the ordinances within which people come to us and get a certificate of occupancy,” said Chiaia. “If we don’t have any ordinance that would guide us on this matter, anyone can come in and get a permit and we won’t have control over whether they get the permit or not.”  

Although the ordinance passed, both Chiaia and Raymond said that the council has the right to repeal the ordinance, and the entire council agreed that more information is needed on this topic.

Following the school shooting in Parkland, school safety was also a concern among residents who attended Tuesday’s meeting.

When one parent asked what the borough was doing to ensure the safety of its students, Police Chief Mark Deuer stated that the Borough of North Caldwell has a state-of-the-art security system that allows the North Caldwell Police Department to monitor the schools’ cameras and watch in.

“We also connected our radio system to all of the administrator’s cell phones—something that’s unheard of,” he said. “There is a proposal at the school board meeting on Monday that can potentially allow a class-three officer in all the schools.”

According to Deuer, a class-three officer is an officer who has recently retired from the department who has all the training and certifications of current police officers. He added that most school districts are currently employing this method.

The West Essex Regional Board of Education meeting will be held on Monday, March 5 at 7:30 p.m.