SAYREVILLE – Amid the potential legalization of recreation marijuana in New Jersey, Sayreville officials are considering taking action to prohibit the production and sale of the drug.
The issue was discussed at a recent Borough Council meeting after resident Phil Emma spoke before council members to ask for action that would ban businesses selling, growing, distributing, cultivating, transporting, delivering, manufacturing and storing marijuana in the borough.
Emma, who is a member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, suggested the council consider passing a resolution to change Sayreville’s land development code and make the production and sale of marijuana a prohibited use.
In New Jersey, the possession and distribution of marijuana for recreational purposes is currently illegal. The distribution of marijuana and possession of more than 50 grams of marijuana are considered indictable crimes; possession of more than 50 grams is seen as having the intent of distribution. Possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana is a disorderly persons offense, according to state statutes.
Gov. Phil Murphy, however, has said he will take action to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Following Murphy’s stated intention, municipalities in the state have enacted regulations to ban the drug from being created and sold within its borders, including neighboring municipality Old Bridge.
If recreational marijuana is legalized in the state, such regulations would not prohibit the recreational use nor the general distribution of marijuana; it would make the production and sale of the drug illegal only in each municipality that enacted the regulations.
Informing council members that the legalization of recreational marijuana may occur sooner than anticipated, Emma advised the governing body to take action before businesses selling the drug seek approval to be developed in Sayreville.
“We are consistently reminded that we have an opioid problem in our state, so it doesn’t make any sense to introduce recreational marijuana and all of its baggage,” Emma said. “I don’t believe that this something that Sayreville wants or needs. Where would [marijuana] businesses go? Would they go next to a school? A playground? A park? Churches or temples? Or residential neighborhoods? I’ve talked with my neighbors and nobody wants a pot shop in Sayreville. And then you have the matter of unforeseen consequences with people who may come from other areas, including out of state, into Sayreville to purchase, use [and] consume marijuana in its various forms and then possibly drive through our town.
Emma made note of a study in Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal.
“Marijuana is figuring into more fatal crashes overall,” he said. “In 2013, drivers tested positive in about 10 percent of all fatal crashes. By 2016, it was 20 percent. More drivers are testing positive for marijuana and nothing else. Of the drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2014 who tested positive for marijuana, more than 52 percent had no alcohol in their system and by 2016, that had grown to 69 percent.
“I think we need to get ahead of this now before our borough is faced with an application for one or more of these types of businesses. We are a borough of families and we have a responsibility to protect the residents, including our children. We also have a responsibility to protecting our quality of life. So what I’m asking for is a ban on businesses selling, growing, distributing, cultivating, transporting, delivering, manufacturing [and] storing marijuana, including its ancillary and related paraphernalia in the Borough of Sayreville.”
Council President Victoria Kilpatrick and council members Pat Lembo and Mary Novak voiced support with Emma’s proposal.
“I think it is an issue that we really need to consider, think about and talk about,” Kilpatrick said. “While other towns are moving to make those changes through zoning ordinances and so forth, we’re starting to become a little bit of an island that doesn’t have something. As things move forward, they’re going to migrate into one spot.”
Contact Matthew Sockol at firstname.lastname@example.org.