HomeSuburbanSuburban NewsSayreville opposes retail sale of recreational marijuana

Sayreville opposes retail sale of recreational marijuana

SAYREVILLE – Amid its potential legalization in New Jersey, the retail sale of recreational marijuana is publicly opposed in Sayreville by the Borough Council.

On Oct. 22, council members voted, 3-0, to pass a resolution prohibiting the retail sale of marijuana for recreational purposes in support of current state statute. Council President Victoria Kilpatrick and council members Pat Lembo and Mary Novak voted in favor of the resolution, council members Dan Buchanan and Ricci Melendez abstained, and Councilman Steven Grillo was absent.

In New Jersey, the possession and distribution of marijuana for recreational purposes is illegal. Gov. Phil Murphy has said he will take action to legalize marijuana for recreational use. The issue has been debated by legislators in the Assembly and the Senate in recent months.

The resolution states that Sayreville’s governing body opposes any legislation that legalizes the retail sale of marijuana for recreational purposes. According to the document, the governing body believes the retail sale will have significant harmful consequences to the quality of life in the borough, as well as the health, safety and welfare of residents.

The resolution only discusses recreational marijuana; it does not express opposition to medical marijuana.

Discussions on recreational marijuana in Sayreville have been ongoing since September after John Zebrowski, police chief of the Sayreville Police Department, recommended the council adopt an ordinance prohibiting the retail sale of the drug in the borough. Special meetings dedicated to recreational marijuana were also held by the council, with viewpoints expressed by both advocates and opponents of marijuana from Sayreville and other municipalities, and a committee was established to discuss the issue.

At a council meeting in September, Zebrowski cited potential health and safety effects of marijuana as reason to oppose the drug’s legalization and sale.

“If it is the borough’s decision to not want businesses such as this in Sayreville, I think it’s appropriate to be proactive,” the police chief said. “Proactive to tell our residents how we feel and how we want to protect them and to tell our state legislators our feelings. One of the greatest opportunities we have is to be able to tell them that this is something we don’t want to see happen in New Jersey. We send a message that we want to protect our children, our residents, our motoring public and do what’s right for public safety, for quality of life, and for public health.”

While most council members shared concerns with recreational marijuana, Grillo voiced opposition to prohibiting its sale, noting that alcohol is distributed in the borough and also causes health and safety hazards.

“We have to be intellectually honest here,” Grillo said. “Every year, we pass ordinances that allow for a hundred liquor licenses. We have no problem doing that. We are the strip club capital of central New Jersey. So in terms of social mores and vice, it’s a very disingenuous argument to say that all of sudden, Sayreville is going to become Sodom and Gomorrah overnight because we allow the sale of marijuana. I don’t believe this [prohibiting marijuana’s sale] is something we should support.”

Before the council’s vote on the resolution on Oct. 22, Buchanan expressed concern over the timing of the resolution due to a special meeting on recreational marijuana being scheduled the next day, on Oct. 23. Buchanan reasoned that voting on the resolution could discourage public participation at the special meeting and requested that the vote take place the following night.

“If this [resolution] is voted in favor of, the people in favor are not going to show up tomorrow because they already know the council’s opinion,” he said. “If we vote it down, just the opposite will happen. I just think that we need everyone’s opinion so that we have a true account of the public of what the people want here.”

Kilpatrick, however, felt that voting on the resolution would bring more participation to the special meeting because it would demonstrate the council members’ viewpoints on recreational marijuana to the public and attract interest before further legislation was enacted.

“Individuals within the borough are going to see where we fall personally,” Kilpatrick said. “People will know when they come up to speak who within the council feels a certain way right now. When things move forward, we don’t know what that [recreational marijuana] law is going to be, we’re going to have to make other decisions regarding our laws and ordinances.”

Kilpatrick and Novak also noted that the item being voted on was a resolution, not an ordinance, and was in preparation for an ordinance that would enforce recreational marijuana regulations in Sayreville.

Before its approval from the council, the resolution received praise from resident Ken Olchaskey, who found that it would inform the borough’s state representatives from the 19th District (Sayreville’s district in New Jersey) what Sayreville’s position on recreational marijuana is before a possible vote to legalize it.

“[The resolution] is a first step and it puts on notice our state legislators in the 19th District where Sayreville stands on this issue,” Olchaskey said.

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