The City administration organized a marijuana summit to provide city residents with information from experts about legal adult use marijuana. The two and a half hour summit was held at Perth Amboy High School on June 2nd at 7pm, and residents attended in person and on zoom. There was a panel of 4 presenters, Chief John Zebrowski, Sayreville Police Dept, Dr. Cynthia Vuittonet, Chief Medical Officer JRF, Dr. Bonnie Nolan, Rutgers Professor and Addiction Counselor, and Nicole LaChapelle, Mayor of East Hampton, MA, a town that has local marijuana business. The moderator was Rev. Dr. Danielle Brown. The panel also had the city attorney and police chief. The panelists made 7 minute presentations and then the public was able to ask questions. The event was translated into Spanish.
Marijuana was legalized by NJ voters last November 2020 by an overwhelming majority. Locally, Perth Amboy voters also voted for marijuana legalization by a 57% majority. Anyone 21 and over in NJ can now legally possess up to 6 ounces of marijuana.
The state will control all online sales of marijuana and regulation of delivery services, which the city cannot ban. But locally, the Perth Amboy City Council gets to decide if we will allow the local cultivation, manufacture, wholesale or retail sale of marijuana. The City will be able to impose a 2% tax on local marijuana business. Also, by allowing local business, Perth Amboy will receive a large portion of the state tax on marijuana, because of social justice provisions since we were a community negatively impacted by the war on drugs. The City Council must decide by Aug 21 if we will allow marijuana businesses.
Some main take aways from the Perth Amboy marijuana summit were-
- Marijuana is not a gateway drug and can be useful to treat health problems like opioid addiction which NJ is battling – Dr. Cynthia Vuittonet, the Chief Medical Officer at Jewish Renaissance, made this statement at the Summit during her presentation.
- Youth use of marijuana can negatively impact cognitive development. The best youth prevention is education-Dr. Bonnie Nolan, Addiction Counselor and Rutgers Professor told the crowd.
- Economic development was successful in a town that allowed marijuana business- Nicole LaChapelle, Mayor East Hampton, MA said that both tax revenue was generated and increased foot traffic in town helped stimulate local businesses. In addition to local retail sales the town also allowed “vertical” cultivation. The Mayor also said there was no negative impact on property values or public safety.
- Marijuana is no longer treated with a criminalized approach but a public health approach. Perth Amboy Chief McKenon said police will no longer arrest youth over marijuana or alcohol. Instead parents will be issued warnings and marijuana/alcohol confiscated. Black and brown youths lives will no longer be negatively impacted by arrests. People of color were 3.64 times more likely to be arrested despite comparable usage rates.
- Smoking marijuana is subject to local smoking laws. The city attorney said smoking in public places is banned in Perth Amboy, so a person could receive a ticket/fine for smoking in any public place here (a park, etc.)
It is now Perth Amboy’s turn to decide should we allow the local sale, manufacture, wholesale or cultivation of cannabis. If the City Council decides yes, they can enact a 2% tax on local business which some say will be a cash cow for our town, given the experience of other towns that have local marijuana businesses. Discussions about how we could spend both the local tax revenue and state tax revenue from marijuana need to take place next. Perth Amboy Councilman Bienvenido Torres has suggested that the tax revenue could be spent on a local Health Department, which Perth Amboy does not have. Other major upcoming city expenses include $341 million CSO project (combined sewer overflow), drinking water improvement and other important items.
Zoning and planning board decisions need to be made, where businesses will be allowed, how many, control over signage, truck routes, etc. State regulations for businesses, security and other matters are being made by the State Cannabis Commission. The timeline for decision making is tight.
Mayor Caba had announced in a May 21 statement that he was against local sales, but for cultivation- but willing to learn more. On May 22, there was a small march (40 people) against allowing local marijuana business.