As state lawmakers try to figure out the next steps on a bill to legalize recreational marijuana, some Cranbury officials are making a stand against the legislation.
In 2018, the Township Committee adopted an ordinance that prohibited the recreational sale of marijuana in town, in an effort to stay a step ahead of the state legislature and executive branch.
The bills were pulled from a vote in the New Jersey State Senate on March 25 for lack of enough votes to pass it.
“If the bill passed, then our ordinance would have become null and void,” Mayor James Taylor said. “We would be forced to introduce a new ordinance prohibiting recreational sales which we would have been permitted to do. However, also per the legislation a town that banned recreational sales will have to reintroduce and pass the ordinance banning the sale every five years.”
He said if the bill is passed later this year, the ordinance would be introduced in town at the earliest convenience.
“We will introduce an ordinance banning recreational sales within one to two months post any bill legalizing recreational sales,” Taylor said. “That it did not come up for a vote now only means we need to continue monitoring the legislation. I imagine a few more handshake deals will be made in Trenton and the legislation passed.”
Taylor said he worries about the negative effects recreational sales would have in town.
“Towns similar to Cranbury in states where it is legal have seen a decline in property value, overall increases in DUIs, increased property crime and increased drug trafficking,” he said. “My sister-in-law lives down the road from a legal pot shop. She supported legalization and has stated how the traffic and issues with people smoking and hanging around outside and in the area have created problems for the residents and police.”
Taylor said that those who support the legislation due to the expected tax revenue should be aware that those revenues may not flow back to Cranbury.
“Those that point to tax revenue should be aware that it is not likely to flow back to the towns as we see with the gas tax increase last year not being allocated as promised or Energy tax receipt funds being kept in Trenton despite the intention it would flow back to the communities,” he said.
Committeeman Dan Mulligan supports the mayor’s position as a no against recreational marijuana sales being a part of town.
“I always like to start with I support medical marijuana in New Jersey especially since we have a facility here in Cranbury for medical marijuana already,” he said. “My view on recreational marijuana is that this bill would negatively impact Cranbury in several ways. First of all, they would negate regulations and laws we already put in place to prohibit recreational marijuana sales in Cranbury, which in the end will give us the control that we would need locally to protect our children and and all of the residents of Cranbury as we the residents of Cranbury see appropriate.”
As Mulligan said, the community already is home to a medical marijuana facility, Breakwater Alternative Treatment Center.
He said he would support a reintroduced ordinance on prohibiting recreational sales in town.
“I absolutely feel that we should re-introduce the 2018 ordinance if needed and make the language stronger if needed, in order to protect the residents of Cranbury from this ridiculous uninformed legislation that Gov. Phil Murphy and State Senator Steve Sweeney have put together,” Mulligan said.
He said even if changes are made to this current bill, the new bill would not change his stance against recreational sales of marijuana in Cranbury.
“There are better ways to solve the social justice issues,” Mulligan said. “Let us continue with medical marijuana in New Jersey. Medical marijuana makes sense, because people have medical needs, however recreational marijuana just does not make sense at this time especially in towns like Cranbury.”
If the bill named New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory and Expungement Aid Modernization Act had passed, it would have legalized possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults 21 or older and make larger amounts subject to a disorderly persons offense, establish a new cannabis industry, tax marijuana at a flat rate of $42 per ounce, and expedite expungement of marijuana offenses, that includes a criminal conviction for possession or distribution of up to 5 pounds, according to state lawmakers.
The time frame is not certain for the legislation to be brought back up for a vote in the state legislature.