Council to set up marijuana safeguards

City to institute temporary ban on recreational cannabis; medical marijuana dispensaries could be coming soon

The Hoboken Planning Board will review two ordinances that will amend the city’s zoning laws regarding marijuana establishments after the City Council introduced them in an 8-0-1 vote.

The first ordinance would permit medical marijuana establishments, while the second ordinance would temporarily ban recreational marijuana establishments including retail stores, retail distribution facilities, and commercial cultivation facilities in town until after the state decides whether or not to legalize recreational marijuana.

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Marijuana is currently legal for medical use in 32 states including New Jersey, and for recreational use in 10 states and Washington D.C. Gov. Phil Murphy has favored making it legal for recreational use statewide, and the legislature is considering proposals.

The next scheduled sessions for both the state Senate and the Assembly is Dec. 17.

The proposed ordinances follow a community forum held on Nov. 19 at the Jubilee Center that discussed how the city should handle marijuana.

The ordinances

The ordinance regarding medical marijuana would permit a total of three medical marijuana dispensaries in town, no more than one per zone.

They would only be allowed in the city’s industrial zones, primarily in the southern and northern edges of the city and the Central Business District. That includes southern Washington Street until about Fourth Street, portions of Newark Street, First Street, Court Street, and Observer Highway, and the area near the Hoboken Terminal.

In order to open a marijuana establishment in any of the above zones the business would undergo a public hearing and the site plan would need to be approved by the planning board.

Additionally, a license would need to be obtained by the business from the state to operate in town.

The ordinance also states that marijuana establishments will be required to have carbon filtered ventilation systems to mitigate odor and be located on the ground floor.

The second ordinance would temporarily ban recreational marijuana establishments in town as a short-term safeguard to protect the city until the council can evaluate and pass an updated ordinance.

The ordinance states that the council believes they need more community outreach and additional input before they consider what type of recreational marijuana establishments should be permitted in town if at all.

“The City Council feels that it should wait to formally enact any long-term policies until after the state level legislation is decided, so that the Hoboken legislation can be better tailored to State regulation,” states the ordinance.

The measure also notes that the council would like an analysis of the potential economic benefits, more understanding of health and safety concerns, and plans for enforcement, training, and education.

The council will consider both ordinances on final reading during its next meeting on Dec. 19.

Public support

The council did not discuss the ordinances, but several members of the public spoke about its merits during the public portion, the majority of whom supported having medical marijuana establishments in town.

“Dispensaries in Hoboken are needed and should be welcomed as alternative treatment centers,” said Claudia Santoro.

“I’ve worked in Hoboken for over 20 years,” said Mariella Vivero. “Hoboken needs alternative treatment centers to provide safe local access through a regulated entity.”

David Serrano, a former Hoboken resident who was injured while serving in the U.S. Navy and uses marijuana to treat his pain and PTSD, spoke in favor of allowing marijuana establishments to open.

“Cannabis saved this veterans life,” said Serrano who called himself a medical refugee, explaining he left the area to move to Colorado in order to use marijuana for his ailments but is now considering moving back.

Resident Cheryll Fallick said she had concerns with only allowing the medical marijuana establishments on the outskirts of town, saying that may be difficult for people who need it.

Resident Elizabeth Adams said she believes in medical marijuana but also believes that it would be a “detriment” to have recreational marijuana establishments in town.

“Legalizing recreational marijuana in Hoboken would open the floodgates to an undesirable element and give them full permission to enter our community,” said Adams stating that the town already has a vagrancy problem.

She also said she had concerns with tax increases, suggesting the police department would need more officers and training to handle individuals driving while under the influence of marijuana.

She suggested that the city hold a public referendum to see whether or not the majority of residents want recreational marijuana establishments to be allowed in the city.

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