If elected officials are ignoring voters’ intentions on marijuana, maybe it’s time to send them packing

| 22 May 2021 | 11:59

    This past November, New Jersey voters approved a statewide referendum permitting the possession, use, purchase, sale and taxation of marijuana. The question was approved by a better than 2-to-1 margin, covering all demographics including race, sex, age, political affiliation, and county.

    Of the 565 towns in New Jersey, only three did not pass the referendum:

    1. Lakewood, Ocean County: a town consisting of a predominantly conservative Orthodox Jewish population that was considered not likely to approve weed from the very beginning of the legalization conversation.

    2. Walpack, Sussex County: the smallest town in Sussex County with only 13 voters, 11 cast ballots, and the question failed on a 6-5 vote.

    3. Tavistock, Warren County: the only New Jersey town smaller than Walpack, two of its seven voters cast a vote, ending in a 1-1 split.

    Every county in New Jersey approved legalization. Ocean County, with a 60 percent approval, was the lowest “yes” vote. But now, once again Republican leaders are encouraging towns to adopt ordinances barring the establishment of marijuana stores. Despite the will of the people, more than 70 towns have opted to ban retail sales of weed. (Note that under the laws, towns cannot ban the possession or use of cannabis, nor can they prevent persons who order by mail from receiving a delivery).

    In Sussex County, a new push by the Sussex County Republican Committee is bearing fruit in towns like Sparta, Byram, Hardyston, and Newton. Franklin is now considering a ban as well. A lot of the towns opting out of marijuana sales have Republican-controlled councils or are in Republican-dominated counties.

    These towns are forfeiting any share of tax revenue generated by sales. So the big question is: At a time when towns are suffering financially, why are officials choosing to pass up much-needed revenue for their towns? Because if you opt out of allowing cannabis businesses, your town does not get to share in an estimated $193 million in revenue. When that happens, will those towns try to sue the state? Very likely. Remember, Republicans are big on holding their hands out, hypocrisy be damned. Not to mention the unknown process of applying for these licenses in the future when these ordinances are inevitably changed once the politicians who put them there are booted from office.

    Will it be too late? Will licenses be even available then, or will they go to places like Bergen or Essex counties while Sussex starves for revenue alone? So check with your town. Remember, unless you live in Lakewood, Walpack or Tavistock, the majority of your townspeople approved the referendum. If they’re banning cannabis sales, ask them why they’re ignoring their constituents. After all, you wanted legal weed. You should have it. They are elected by you to carry out your will, the will of the people!

    If they are ignoring you, well, maybe it’s time to send them packing, because that’s not how our democracy is supposed to work.

    Michael Schnackenberg