If New Jersey legalizes recreational marijuana any time soon, don’t bet on coming to Secaucus to score.
The mayor and Town Council introduced a zoning ordinance at their July 24 meeting that would ban the sale, growth, and distribution of recreational marijuana in town, blocking recreational marijuana dispensaries from opening. The town already has a medical marijuana dispensary, as medical cannabis has been legal in New Jersey since 2010.
Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli said the ordinance anticipates legalization of recreational pot. The state introduced legislation in June, and Gov. Phil Murphy campaigned on legalizing marijuana, partly as a revenue measure.
Leslie Hoffman, a spokesperson for the Harmony Foundation medical dispensary on Meadowlands Parkway, declined to comment on the proposed ordinance. “We’re focused on medical marijuana,” she said. “We serve our patients.”
“Recreational marijuana, we have an issue with,” Gonnelli said. “We’re trying to get a jump on this before Murphy adopts it.”
The ordinance would prevent Harmony from ever selling their products recreationally, the council noted.
Nearby Weehawken took a similar stance on the issue this year. In March, that township amended its zoning law to ban any commercial sale, growth, or distribution of marijuana in retail establishments, save for entrepreneurs who apply for use variances. The change came after multiple entrepreneurs bombarded Weehawken administrators with requests to convert their stores, homes and vacant land into marijuana facilities, both recreational and medical.
Secaucus Town Administrator Gary Jeffas admitted that the legislation partially intends to assuage Secaucus’ more conservative population.
“I think that the mayor and council feel it’s something they want to take a position on,” he said. Being five miles from New York City, they also worry that Secaucus could become a revolving door for Big Apple residents to restock their supply, Jeffas said.
The measure will probably be up for a final vote on Aug. 28.
“We’re trying to get a jump on this before Murphy adopts it.” – Michael Gonnelli
Other council matters
A resolution passed at the meeting could ultimately lead to a sidewalk along Meadow Lane, heading toward Secaucus Middle and High School.
The measure will authorize an application submission to the state Department of Transportation, for its Safe Routes to School program. Safe Routes offers funds to governments so they can improve the ability of primary and middle school students to safely walk and bike to school.
Also at the meeting, Mayor Michael Gonnelli mentioned that the state granted the Board of Education an additional $382,533 in aid for this year. Last month, Trenton finalized its school aid appropriations from the 2018 state budget. Overall this year, the state has given the board slightly over $500,000 in aid, according to Jeffas.
Updating fire safety rules
Commercial and certain multi-family buildings will have to install knoxboxes under another ordinance introduced at the meeting. Knoxboxes are wall-mounted safes that hold building keys allowing fire and other emergency services rapid entry. If adopted, all new commercial buildings in town will need knoxboxes. Existing commercial buildings with an automatic fire-detection and/or fire-suppression system will need knoxboxes as well.
The mandate would extend to multi-family residential structures with three or more units. Property or building owners would be responsible for all costs associated with the acquisition, installation, and maintenance of knoxboxes at their locations. Those that fail to comply with the ordinance, or violate it after receiving notice from the Secaucus fire official, would be subject to a $500 fine. The final hearing for the above mentioned ordinances is on Aug. 28.
Hannington Dia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org