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Toms River and Nutley Cannabis Activists Make Progress Fighting Bans

Cannabis activists made progress in Tom’s River, NJ in Ocean County, and Nutley, NJ in Essex County, stopping cannabis bans in towns where the majority voted for legalization. 

Entrepreneur and cannabis activist Daniel Kessel, a resident of Tom’s River, was one of the leaders who caused the council to decide to study the issue more instead of passing a ban.

“If you pass this ordinance, I’m suing you,” he told the council. Kessel also said he would vote them out in the next election if they banned cannabis dispensaries in town.

Kessel noted Tom’s River already has two methadone clinics, and no meetings were held when the second opened. A methadone clinic, where people trying to end their heroin addiction with a weak substitute spend time, usually causes controversy.

Kessel said more people voted in favor of the statewide referendum, which received 64 percent of the vote, far than the council members did.

He added only one of the council members read the ordinance.

He is seeking to persuade as many cannabis activists as possible to speak in favor of cannabis at the meeting after next. Thus, he has been posting in Tom’s River and New Jersey 420 groups to encourage cannabis activists to speak at the next meeting.

Kessel is optimistic Tom’s River will pass a pro-cannabis regulatory ordinance.

“I think there’s room for a few dispensaries,” he said, noting the town is 54 square miles wide.

Kessel said he sent materials to them on towns that are allowing cannabis dispensaries within their borders.

He also challenged them to take a drug test.

“Before you pass an ordinance on drugs, you should be able to pass a drug test,” he said. “Only three of them took me up on the offer.”

After many cannabis activists protested, the council voted to delay action to discuss and explore the issues involved with the potential for retail businesses under New Jersey’s law governing the legalization of adult recreational marijuana use.

“You are deliberately not listening to your constituents,” a cannabis activist said, warning those who favor a ban “will be voted out.”

“We already stated our opinion on Nov. 2nd,” said one cannabis activist in response an official saying they have received a lot of complaints from those in favor of cannabis prohibition. “We shouldn’t have to tell you a second time.”

Unfortunately, longtime activists know all too well that the mere election is only one stop in the long process to enacted change on a given issue. Advocates constantly need to reinforce the message and show that they have popular support.

“We have a unique business opportunity,” said Kenneth Gaughran. She said that since nearby towns have banned a dispensary, a Tom’s River dispensary would get their potential customers.

Tom’s River could enact a two percent sales tax on cannabis sales to collected revenue needed for a number of community projects. While it is an incentive, it does raise the price of cannabis, which has been a consistent problem in New Jersey’s medical program the State has never done anything about, except acknowledging the problem.

“If we allow a legal dispensary in Toms River, we will, by extension, decrease the illegal sales,” Councilwoman Laurie Huryk said.

People that want to be on the committee should send their resume to the council members or the town’s Business Administrator Lou Amoruso.

The NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) has yet to release guidance which is proving difficult for towns leaning to allow dispensaries.

Cannabis Activists Make Progress in Nutley

Cannabis activists in Nutley have started a Change.org petition to fight the local cannabis ban introduced by the Board of Commissioners (town council).

“As Nutley residents we have been clamoring for property tax relief!” the petition says.

The next town council meeting where the issue will be discussed is June 1st.

“Nutley could gain the revenue it needs without passing the burden onto its homeowners and business owners. It’s a win-win for all!” the petition says.

In addition to the petition, Nutley cannabis activists have written letters to the Editor against the proposed cannabis dispensary ban.

According to the Asbury Park Press, 65 percent of Nutley voted for cannabis reform in the statewide referendum held in November.

The longtime cannabis activist group Sativa Cross is trying its best to speak out in favor of a dispensary at all the council meetings where a cannabis ban might pass. But it isn’t easy.

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