TOMS RIVER — Marijuana businesses are likely to be banned indefinitely here after Township Council members introduced a measure that would eliminate the Dec. 31 expiration date for the weed business ban.
Four council members — Kevin M. Geoghegan, Maria Maruca, Matt Lotano and Daniel Rodrick — voted to scrap the Dec. 31 date on Tuesday. Council members Josh Kopp and Terrance Turnbach abstained, while Councilwoman Laurie Huryk voted “no” on the measure.
“This shows a total lack of regard not only for my time, but for the members of that committee,” Huryk said. She was referring to a cannabis study group that was formed earlier this year to help determine if Toms River should allow recreational or medical weed businesses.
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The council had previously adopted a ban on businesses that sell, manufacture and distribute weed, but had placed the Dec. 31 expiration date on the ban. That was to allow council members to consider the findings of the cannabis committee.
The group included five residents, township Planner David Roberts, as well as representatives from the police department and Toms River Regional schools and council members. It produced a report recommending that cultivation and manufacture — but not recreational sales — should be permitted in the township.
Huryk supported legalizing marijuana and has urged the council not to completely ban weed businesses. She urged council members to reconsider their stance.
“I think this council can do better,” she said.
But Rodrick, who has spoken out against allowing marijuana businesses here, praised his council colleagues for deciding to eliminate the Dec. 31 expiration date.
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“I am glad the council is reversing course on this measure,” he said.
Rodrick has claimed that any revenue Toms River would derive from allowing weed enterprises would be minimal compared to the additional expenses in policing and other enforcement that would be necessary if marijuana businesses are allowed.
In Toms River, 63.7% of voters supported last year’s ballot measure legalizing weed for adults; statewide, 67% voted in favor.
The council has twice previously tabled ordinances blocking marijuana sales in town. A law banning weed sales was shelved in early 2018, more than two years before marijuana was legalized in New Jersey, while council members in May again tabled a similar ordinance.
In both instances, the council backed away from the weed ban after receiving pushback from residents, who said the governing body was out of step with what Toms River citizens support.
In response to a question from an audience member, Geoghegan said it’s possible the council could choose to allow medical marijuana sales here.
“Most of the people here feel OK with medical marijuana,” he said.
A public hearing on the ordinance eliminating the Dec. 31 expiration date on the weed business ban is scheduled for 6 p.m. Nov. 23.
Jean Mikle covers Toms River and several other Ocean County towns, and has been writing about local government and politics at the Jersey Shore for nearly 37 years. She’s also passionate about the Shore’s storied music scene. Contact her: @jeanmikle, email@example.com