BOONTON — Legal cannabis sales – retail and wholesale – are coming to town.
The town council voted, 7-1, Monday to approve those select operations, restricting them to the commercial zone along Myrtle Avenue (Route 202).
Council members approved the ordinance after a brief public discussion in which about six of the 40 people in attendance voiced their opinions about the measure.
Some were against retail sales and urged the council to keep the operations away from schools and children.
“Main Street is no place to be selling cannabis,” said one woman, who labeled marijuana as a “gateway drug.”
Another resident, Amy De Palma, supported the ordinance, saying her mother has an illness “and the only thing that is helping her is edibles.”
The approval bucks a trend of many municipalities acting to ban cannabis operations, at least temporarily, after they were signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy in June. The Legislature passed the laws after New Jersey voters overwhelmingly approved legal cannabis by referendum in the November 2020 election.
Towns now have until Aug. 21 to similarly “opt-out” of state-approved cannabis operations or be required to accept them within their borders for at least five years. The towns can reverse course and opt-in at any time.
New Jersey has formed a commission to establish specific regulations for cannabis sales beyond the creation of six business categories: growing, manufacturing, wholesaling, distribution, retail sales and deliveries.
Council member and former mayor Cyril Wekilsky cast the lone vote against the ordinance, siding with elected leaders in many other towns, like Mount Olive, who voted to opt-out of the process until the state finalizes its own regulations.
“The state hasn’t done that yet,” Wekilsky said. “I tried to tell everyone that, but they wouldn’t listen.”
Mayor Richard Corcoran said the council was following the “overwhelming mandate” of Boonton residents, 71% of whom voted for legal cannabis with a voter turnout of 76%.
“We looked at a number of things after the election,” he said. “The very first thing we looked at was how did Boonton vote on the ballot question. We did not think it was in our mandate to just throw away something as high as that.”
Anticipating concerns about location, the committee recommended restricting it to the commercial zones along Myrtle Avenue, and at least 1,000 feet away from schools.
The number of licenses, taxes, fees and other considerations will be discussed at a future date, Corcoran said.
William Westhoven is a local reporter for DailyRecord.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.