Cannabis was a hot topic during Tuckerton’s Feb. 22 council meeting, with a seemingly equal amount of passion among residents both for and against having a dispensary placed in the borough.
Councilman Keith Vreeland spoke in regard to various emails sent in by residents concerned with the idea of the borough placing a potential cannabis dispensary at the site of the former Tuckerton Beach Grill.
The rumor was brought to light during the public forum of Tuckerton’s Feb. 6 council meeting, when South Green Street resident Gary Corriero spoke in opposition of placing a cannabis dispensary in an area that, although zoned commercial, is “embedded within a very large residential area.”
“I’m not aware of anyone in the process of trying to purchase it or anything like that,” said Vreeland. In fact, he added, the council had not even finalized the zoning process.
Setting the record straight, Vreeland gave his professional opinion, as both an architect and member of the land use board. “It’s not really a good fit (for the Tuckerton Beach area). … The B3 Zone is nearly full. That type of business down there wouldn’t be adequate for traffic or anything like that.”
If the borough were to pass legislation allowing a cannabis dispensary in town, Vreeland said his recommendation would be for the business to be placed somewhere in the B2 Zone, likely along Route 9.
Later, Stewart’s Root Beer owner Charles Adams, formerly of West Creek but who is presently a Pennsylvania resident, spoke to denounce cannabis in Tuckerton.
“I stand here before you this evening to express my respectful, humble opposition to the placement of a marijuana dispensary here in the borough of Tuckerton, whether it’s on Green Street or on Route 9,” he asserted. “There are a limited number of locations for dispensaries in the state of New Jersey, and there’s a good reason for that. Dispensaries – and the statistics are available online, and frankly, they’re unassailable – the dispensary adds to increased levels of crime … loitering, traffic, operating vehicles under the influence.
“It simply isn’t a good fit,” Adams concluded, adding his opinion that any revenue generated by the cannabis industry would be outweighed by its dangers.
Jeff Peterson, a retired law enforcement officer living on Kingfisher Road, said he was worried a dispensary in Tuckerton would lead to people loitering and using cannabis outside dispensaries as well as in public parks. “I don’t want our children exposed to that.” He also was worried a dispensary would bring more traffic as well as an increase in people driving under the influence of cannabis.
Jim Arnone, also of Kingfisher, had conducted what he called a “quick traffic survey” and found, based on the estimated projection of cannabis revenue, considering the average customer spends, according to Arnone’s research, about $30 to $35, a dispensary would add 150,000 vehicles of traffic. “I’m not an engineer, but I did spend a lot of time in traffic.” Arnone asked the mayor and police chief to consider a traffic study before approving a dispensary in the borough.
Flamingo Road resident Bruce DeRites spoke to share his fear of recreational marijuana coming to Tuckerton, especially following Feb. 22, where legislation went into effect permitting anyone with a cannabis license to grow, distribute and operate a retail dispensary.
“I think we have to really, seriously look at this because the risks outweigh the benefits,” said DeRites. “I’m not anti-cannabis, but I oppose the location of any cannabis operation in Tuckerton borough.”
Duncan Delano, a cannabis attorney from Montclair, spoke to set a few facts straight regarding legal cannabis. He addressed previous comments, point for point.
“Nothing was changed by Gov. Murphy that is opening everything up in the next couple of days (Feb. 22). It was preset in statute that after two years companies can what’s called ‘vertically integrate,’” he clarified. In other words, he elaborated, “They can hold a cultivation, manufacturing and retail license simultaneously. You still need to apply for all three licenses. Towns still can opt out of any one of those, so towns have the power to prevent vertical integration.”
In terms of smoking outside, “That’s illegal,” he continued. “You can’t consume cannabis in public. You also are not allowed to drive (under the influence). I’m not saying it doesn’t happen.” Essentially, he implied that as long as the law is enforced in the borough, Tuckerton could mitigate the illegal activity some residents fear.
Delano also responded to challenge Arnone’s research. “To assume that the average basket price is around $30 to $35 is probably off by a factor of five, at least,” he argued. He offered to provide council with recent statistics showing more-accurate information.
Candice Johnson of Jersey Shore Extracts LLC spoke to “implore everybody to do their own research,” adding that she felt much of the opposition comes from years of stigma around cannabis.
Johnson, who hopes her business might find a home in Tuckerton, reiterated that revenue generated by cannabis would be incredibly helpful for the town, not only now, but for years to come.
Ann Marie Sweeney of South Green Street added personal insight to the matter. “I will say when my mother was in hospice care, the only thing that helped her to eat and to feel better was cannabis gummies.”
Sweeney added that she had been pleasantly surprised to find the dispensary not only clean, but “well-secure.”
Further challenging Arnone’s research, Sweeney said she spent about $300 on two tins of cannabis gummies. “This ‘Reefer Madness’ of the 1950s has got to stop.”
— Monique M. Demopoulos