Residents comment on cannabis companies at special meeting

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HOWELL – Residents recently expressed concerns and support about the possibility of having cannabis businesses in Howell and where they should be zoned to members of city council.

A special meeting was held at which the council received public comments from the community regarding the broad topic.

In November, New Jersey residents voted to legalize adult marijuana use. State officials had given municipalities until Aug. 21 to pass ordinances banning or allowing marijuana businesses.

In Monmouth County, 65.6% of residents voted to approve the legalization of marijuana and 34.4% voted against. For Howell, 63.39% voted to legalize it.

Despite the votes, council members voted “yes” on August 21 to ban marijuana businesses in the city. However, they reassured residents that the ban would be temporary to give the council more time to properly zone and choose where businesses should be in Howell.

Prior to the adoption of the ordinance, many residents said legalization was a “missed opportunity”.

The special meeting opened the discussion for residents on the issue while allowing city officials to comment and provide a response.

“There are members here who I know will speak on both sides (cannabis issue). But our intention is to hear from all angles so that the council can develop the best policy as to what we want to allow, what we don’t want to allow and in which areas of the city we want to allow, ”said Brian Geoghegan, City Manager. noted.

“The discussion revolves around how recreational cannabis and / or medical cannabis should be regulated, zoned and licensed for land use in Howell. So that’s what we want to talk about tonight, ”said Mayor Theresa Berger.

Long-time resident Howell Police Chief Andrew Kudrick was asked to provide an overview and wanted to talk about the possible effects of having cannabis businesses on law enforcement and the maintenance of law. order in the community.

Looking at cannabis cultivation operations in other states, Kudrick said, “There haven’t been any issues. Security is tight (in facilities), businesses are highly regulated, and business owners are in touch with the community.

“We’re more concerned with the DWI side, driving under the influence. Facilitate people’s access to these documents which lead to DWIs. But we have liquor stores in town that’s intoxicating. I think that’s something we’re going to have to come to terms with in New Jersey and work with the best we can, ”Kudrick said.

When asked about surveillance and security for marijuana businesses, Kudrick said security systems can be compared to any bank or other business.

“I know these business owners take it very seriously because they know they’re an easy target. But other than that, it was not reported to me that there had been an increase in crime, vandalism of any kind that would draw the attention of police or law enforcement resources to this business ” , Kudrick said.

Resident Ed McNamee, owner of Merrick Farm in Farmingdale, said residents can simply travel to nearby towns to get weed from medical marijuana dispensaries and cannabis retail operations.

Howell Police Chief Andrew Kudrick explains whether or not having cannabis businesses would cause problems in the township. (Photo courtesy of the Township of Howell)

“Anyone can go ahead and drive to other places and get it. They can go home and smoke it at home. So you can’t prevent that from happening because the law says you’re going to have it. The question is: do you want to be involved in some way? McNamee said.

He also said the city would benefit from the fees that would be paid by the operators. McNamee said he was interested in starting a cannabis grow operation on a property in Howell and explained the difference in income between farming and growing cannabis.

“It’s here, you’re not going to stop that from happening.” True or False, it will be in the city next to you and they will buy it and bring it. So, do you want to go ahead and make some income from it or not? Someone is, ”McNamee said.

Resident Lisa Doud, who chairs the Howell Shade Tree Commission, explained how she lived in a state where weed is legal and got to see cannabis companies firsthand.

“I think there are a lot of misconceptions that everyone is talking about. It seems like everyone just thinks you’re going to the marijuana store and you’re just going to buy some pot and roll a joint and sit there and smoke it. You can buy edibles, which most people do. There aren’t a lot of people in the marijuana stores who just buy pot, they buy edibles and different things that you can drink, ”Doud said. “It’s not just people who buy pot to roll a joint to smoke on the patio and blow smoke on someone else’s patio. It’s not like that anymore. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about what is sold and how it is used.

She also explained that the majority of people who visit these types of stores are actually seniors and the elderly who want to smoke weed instead of taking opioids or pain relievers for pain relief.

“I think we put a lot of the burden on ‘the teens are going to do it and the kids are going to do it and people are going to get addicted” and it’s really not like that, “Doud said. “The people who buy it are my age or older than me, who are looking for alternatives because they don’t want to use opioids… We’re not reinventing the wheel here. There are plenty of other states and cities that have been doing this for years.

Other residents explained that banning medical marijuana dispensaries or stores would not prevent black market sales of cannabis in the city. Many agreed that allowing these companies would not only make life easier for Howell residents, but also help remove the stigma associated with cannabis use.

The discussion regarding the zoning of marijuana businesses in the township will continue on October 12 for a second special meeting on the subject.