CLOSE James Nash talks about marijuana legislation NorthJersey New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has asked municipal prosecutors across the state to adjourn all... Elmwood Park, Saddle Brook ban sale of recreational marijuana

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James Nash talks about marijuana legislation NorthJersey

Elmwood Park and Saddle Brook are the latest towns to ban the sale of recreational marijuana, as the state moves toward a vote to legalize the drug, likely by the end of this year.

An ordinance passed by the Elmwood Park Council prohibits businesses selling recreational marijuana and paraphernalia within one quarter mile of a school, place of worship, recreational fields, playgrounds, or in the business, residential or development zones, meaning there is nowhere in town it can lawfully be sold.

“Elmwood Park is a small town with five schools all within walking distance of our commercial districts,” Elmwood Park Councilwoman Maggie Giandomenico said. “In order to protect the vulnerability of our children and the health and welfare of all of our residents, it was our responsibility as a council to enact a preventive policy in order to preserve the aesthetics of our hometown.”

Those that violate the ban will be subject to a fine of up to $1,500, community service or 30 days in county jail, according to the ordinance.

Mayor Frank Caramagna said it’s important to note that although some states have made a lot of money from legal weed, there are also problems that stem from legalization.

Council President Daniel Golabek agrees.

“With the details of legalization publicly known, the economic benefits of hosting this industry did not outweigh the various risks that came with it,” he said.

“My goal was to make an informed decision based on facts, not hysteria or politics,” he added.

In Saddle Brook, the operation of recreational marijuana retail establishments, which includes marijuana cultivation facilities, manufacturing facilities and testing facilities, is banned by ordinance.

“We are very concerned about the health risks and harmful effects of marijuana use,” Mayor Robert White said. “We also believe that legalization will stifle progress in substance abuse prevention and will send the wrong message to our teens after years of teaching them about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.”

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The Saddle Brook ordinance explicitly says it should not be construed to prohibit or limit the sale, cultivation, manufacturing, testing or use of medical marijuana. It also includes a sunset clause should recreational marijuana sales and use be legalized by the federal government.

Saddle Brook Councilman Andrew Cimiluca said that until an accurate and effective test is developed for determining whether someone is driving under the influence of marijuana, he is wary of sales.

“In my opinion, the detriment to the township outweighs the benefits of retail sales of recreational marijuana,” he said. “To my knowledge, the tax benefits of opening a recreational marijuana sales facility within the township have not been clearly defined and I am not certain that the township would not be able to share in the statewide revenue generated by sales.”

Cimiluca added he does not object to the sale of medical marijuana, “which appears to be assisting many people in dealing with their illnesses.”

Elmwood Park and Saddle Brook join dozens of other towns across New Jersey that have banned the sale of marijuana, including East Rutherford, Garfield, Palisades Park, Hawthorne, Lodi and Mahwah.

The push to outlaw sale of the substance escalated after Gov. Phil Murphy championed legal marijuana as a candidate last year.

The bill was expected to be voted on by the end of October, but New Jersey’s top Democrats in the Legislature said earlier this week that they will not meet their self-imposed deadline.

Though Murphy, Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin agree on legalization of marijuana, details in the latest version of the proposal have not been settled.

The bill addresses taxes, regulations and eligibility to operate a marijuana business.

Sweeney and Coughlin said an end-of-year vote on the bill is more likely.

Email: nolan@northjersey.com

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