The Highland Park Borough Council on Tuesday August 17, 7 p.m., Borough Municipal Building, (221 South Fifth Avenue) will hold a public hearing on an ordinance that would allow the retail sales of cannabis in shops located only in the areas zoned for retail business. The ordinance would not permit marijuana production or warehouse distribution. And the no-smoking-in- public law currently in effect within the municipality would apply to marijuana smoking as well.
At prior public discussions of the proposed ordinance on July 6 and June 29, the mayor and council heard dozens of comments pro and con the cannabis ordinance. After addressing some of the residents’ concerns (such as distance from schools and no smoking in public), the council members unanimously supported the introduction of the ordinance.
The council’s reasoning was simple – permitting licensed and regulated retail establishments specializing in marijuana products would be good for the town fiscally, would reinforce the social justice goals of the community, and would support the will of most of the residents, more than two thirds voted for the NJ law permitting legalizing marijuana. Furthermore, the most recent data reveal that local dispensaries yield no health or safety harm to the residents of any age.. The structure of the law in New Jersey and elsewhere have put center stage a recognition that the war on drugs was and is a racist institution that purposefully harmed communities of color for decades.
The retail establishments would generate fees and tax revenue, a fact that dissuaded the council from postponing the decision to permit retail dispensaries. Council members reasoned that if the council postponed making a decision, then retail establishments would pop up elsewhere such as New Brunswick and Edison and negate any incentive for the marijuana retail business to come to Highland Park.
Cities and towns in New Jersey had little time to make some tough decisions about the legal sale of pot. They have until Aug, 21 to determine if they’ll welcome recreational marijuana businesses with open arms, set limits through new ordinances or ban weed sales altogether. Many towns are opting out now but the law allows municipalities to opt-in at a later date.