This week the marijuana recreational community was celebrating “4/20” and we haven’t heard from the mayor’s cannabis commission. What should have been an opportunity for this government to show leadership and protect Westfield’s families by preventing a marijuana dispensary from opening in town is now pulling back into the second month without a single public hearing.
I wrote on the subject recently on this publication and while I’ve used humor in this piece, I’m very serious about pharmacies. Among my many roles as an FBI agent enforcing federal narcotics laws, I’ve seen firsthand the devastating effects of dangerous drugs on our communities.
While New Jersey has decided to legalize marijuana, it’s still considered a List I narcotic by the federal government. This poses several challenges on site – one of the things that is important is how to deal with the proceeds from drug transactions. Pharmacy owners have their own hurdles, but when cities levy taxes on what is still considered illegal drug trafficking, Westfield takes on significant liabilities and passes them on to taxpayers.
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Some also equate the recent legalization of marijuana with alcohol, which has been legal in New Jersey and the United States since the ban was lifted. While only 30 of New Jersey’s 566 municipalities ban the sale of alcohol, at least 70 municipalities have taken pre-legalization action to ban the sale of marijuana in their cities. The new legalization has given local governments an opt-out clause specifically for this purpose. I envision that many (if not all) of these cities will do this again, and now likely many others will join in who do not want these sales to take place within their borders.
Despite the creation of the Cannabis Commission, this government has already heard about the issue from local residents. According to the much touted Masterplan Re-Examination Survey, over 57% of residents disapproved of marijuana retail stores in Westfield, compared with 21% who approved. The same poll was used by the mayor to drive other initiatives, including the involuntary preservation of history and massive redevelopment of the city center with no offer. Marijuana dispensaries are not an answer to the downtown vacancy question. If these are the types of businesses City Hall and DWC are looking to attract, it may be time for a new leadership in both.
While the cannabis commission conducts its business in secret and the mayor ignores the will of the people, Westfield’s public safety, health and welfare are in balance. It’s time to make the decision that is in the best interests of our citizens: No Marijuana Dispensaries in Westfield!
Candidate for Westfield City Council – Third Division