JACKSON – The members of the Jackson Township Council have adopted an ordinance that prohibits all types of cannabis businesses from operating in the municipality.
Following a public hearing during the governing body’s June 29 meeting, council President Andrew Kern, Vice President Martin Flemming, Councilman Nino Borrelli and Councilman Stephen Chisholm voted “yes” on a motion to adopt the ordinance.
Councilman Alexander Sauickie was absent from the meeting.
In a November 2020 public question, residents of New Jersey voted to legalize adult use (also called recreational use) cannabis. In Ocean County, 190,204 residents voted “yes” and 126,469 residents voted “no” on the legalization question.
In the wake of the referendum, state legislators have taken steps to enact the cannabis legalization process.
Municipal officials in every Garden State community now have the option to prohibit or to permit the production and/or the sale by licensed operators of cannabis within their borders. Municipal officials must make a decision by Aug. 21.
According to the Jackson ordinance, the purpose of the proposed law was to “regulate the marketplace class of licensed recreational cannabis businesses and to codify a prohibition on all six marketplace classes of cannabis establishments … cannabis cultivator, cannabis manufacturer, cannabis wholesaler, cannabis retailer, cannabis distributor and cannabis delivery service.”
By law, Jackson officials may not prohibit the delivery of cannabis items and related supplies in the municipality by a delivery service that is based outside the township.
During the public hearing, Hugh Giordano, a representative/organizer for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 152, based in Egg Harbor Township, voiced the union’s opposition to the ordinance and to certain comments that were made by council members when the ordinance was introduced several weeks earlier.
“We are a national labor union of 1.3 million hard-working families and we are the official labor union that represents cannabis workers from seed-to-sale, both medical and adult use (cannabis).
“We oppose this ordinance. This is an attack on good jobs, this is an attack on living wage jobs; jobs that come with healthcare, sick time, vacations, dental, vision and retirement (benefits). These are adult jobs and not (part-time jobs),” Giordano said.
“One facility, one (cannabis) cultivation site, can create up to 100 jobs, full-time jobs. On top of that, when you prohibit this (type of business), you open the door to other folks to sell things.
“The gateway drug is the drug dealer, the gateway drug is the person who pushes other things on young people. To say that having an adult use (cannabis business) and/or a medical (marijuana) facility in Jackson is the same thing as saying if you have a bar, you are going to have one of those hard-working people give a 12-pack of beer to somebody, that is not the reality of it,” Giordano said.
The union rep said Jackson officials do not have to permit retail cannabis operations. He said, “This is a working class community that uses their hands. Cultivation, manufacturing, warehousing; you could have other opportunities outside of retail that have no interaction of purchasing anything and you could still get tax credits and create good jobs.”
He said comments that were made by municipal officials during a previous meeting created a “fear factor” regarding the issue at hand.
Giordano said if the Jackson council members want a conservative example regarding cannabis operations, they could look to Bayonne in northern New Jersey.
He said in that community, officials “laid out application fees, renewal fees; they have also laid out what they are going to allow and how many of each type of plants they are going to allow.
“On top of that, they have a merit-based application system so the onus is not on you as council members to pick and choose winners and losers.
” … So you do have power; to say you don’t have power and to say there are unknowns, and to say (cannabis) is going to get into the hands of kids, these are all debunked types of myths,” Giordano said.
Following Giordano’s remarks, Kern said the Jackson council members were planning to adopt the cannabis ordinance because if they do not take action they cannot “do anything for five years.”
Regarding the claim of jobs that cannabis businesses might create in the community, Kern said, “We have businesses in town that are looking for more than 100 employees right this minute.”