POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Ahead of likely legalization, shore town bans pot sales

BY Andrew Schmertz, Correspondent |

The signs on the beach say “no swimming”, “no dogs allowed” and “no sitting on the steps.” Well, now you can add “no toking up.”

Point Pleasant Beach has banned marijuana sales, even before the state legalizes it. Mayor Stephen Reid says it’s about quality of life.

“It’s just not a good fit for Point Pleasant Beach. We are a family-friendly town. We have a great school system. A lot of kids are here. In the summer, this is where people come and make memories with their families and I just don’t see it working that well here in Point Pleasant Beach,” said Reid.

The council voted unanimously on Dec. 19 to ban the sale of marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use. Point Pleasant Beach took action before the state legalizes marijuana, which Governor-elect Phil Murphy says he supports. The state is expected to collect as much as $300 million in cannabis related taxes and municipalities that ban pot may not be able to share in that tax money. That doesn’t concern the mayor.

“I think if anyone thinks it’s a windfall for their towns, I think they better look at it again closer,” said Reid.

Reid also once proposed banning saggy pants in the town.

The beach in the winter is rather empty, but in the summer months, tens of thousands of people come to Point Pleasant Beach. And whether banning marijuana is good or bad for economic development remains to be seen. That’s why some say municipalities shouldn’t rush into any decisions.

Sen. Nick Scutari has introduced a bill to legalize recreational marijuana.

“Are they going to shut the liquor stores down in town, or are they just going to single out marijuana before they see what the legislation looks like? Why I’m saying this is because it’s a premature, visceral reaction to legalization. They haven’t seen what the bill is going to be in the final form, they don’t know what the regulations are going to be,” said Scutari.

And the group representing local municipalities says it will ultimately be a local decision.

“It’s not something I’m hearing as widespread, but it’s not a surprise either. You can look at almost any type of activity and a community has to say, does that activity really fit with the culture of our community and do we want to encourage it in our community, or do we want to put limits on it? To the extent municipalities are given the flexibility to have a local decision as to what point will they either embrace or oppose marijuana legalization, we think that’s a good idea because the culture of each community has to be taken into account,” said Michael Darcy, executive director of New Jersey State League of Municipalities.

Point Pleasant Beach is about 4-square miles with a year-round population of about 3,700. Visitors walking the chilly boardwalk on Thursday soundly supported the ban.

“Marijuana is a drug and we don’t need it. We have enough drugs in this country,” said Brick Township resident Charles Kelly.

Other towns in New Jersey are also considering banning marijuana dispensaries, including Seaside Heights and Lavallette.