The Great Local Cannabis Caper

MADISON – Pot is legal all over New Jersey, but it’s still no match for NIMBY-ism.

Yep, it was a strong Not In My Backyard sentiment that encouraged the borough council to deny an application of 1st Choice Health and Wellness to open a medical marijuana dispensary in an old bank building on Main Street. The vote came at the end of a four hour plus meeting that began Monday night and ran until early Tuesday morning. This debate didn’t occur in a vacuum. Many towns are refusing to allow pot dispensaries.

While the council was not convinced the dispensary would be financially sound, it also heard opponents express fear that the new business would usher in violent crime and put children at risk.

“Make no mistake, they’re building a monster on Main Street,” said one opponent in a comment that was as exaggerated as it was frequent.

There was a strangeness to this “Reefer Madness” approach to the debate.

The borough is a Democratic-town; no Republicans sit on the council. And as was pointed out, 63 percent of residents backed legalizing recreational pot in the 2020 referendum that did just that.

That would suggest there would be a more measured understanding of the issue, especially since the proposal was only for medicinal pot, not recreational. New Jersey approved selling marijuana for medicinal purposes back in 2010, although it took a few years for the program to get going.

Opponents dealt with that distinction in two ways.

The first was by not acknowledging the difference between medical and recreational pot. More than one opponent spoke darkly about visiting recreational dispensaries elsewhere in the state and discovering such things as stoned people using pot in the parking lot. One man, who said he was a former police officer, asserted that marijuana attracts “riff-raff.” (Just as an aside, Madison has a number of bars and one must presume that no bar ever attracts “riff-raff.”)

Ryan MaGee, the lawyer for 1st Choice, tried to put those fears to rest.

He said customers would have to produce both an ID card and a medical cannabis card to be served. The dispensary would not sell edibles and no consumption would be allowed on site. Minors would not be permitted to enter and security would be maintained by an armed guard.

Speakers were overwhelmingly opposed to the idea, but a handful spoke about how medicinal pot helps patients suffering from constant pain and other serious ailments.

As the meeting went on, however, another problem for the proposal became evident. A lot of opponents didn’t believe that the dispensary would be medicinal only.

This brought us to a “Catch 22.”

Madison previously banned recreational pot dispensaries and just for good measure, it did it again at the meeting.

Nonetheless, opponents thought this was all a ruse – that over time, the dispensary would convert to selling pot for recreational use.

MaGee said that’s impossible – just look at borough regulations preventing it.

Much to his chagrin, the council was concerned about this as well, but from a different angle.

Council members said they worried that the dispensary would not be able to survive financially by selling only medicinal pot.

MaGee countered that the business was prepared to sustain some initial losses, but that failed to sway the council.

Combined with the passionate resident opposition to the plan, the council’s vote denying the dispensary a license seemed quite pre-ordained.

Indeed. The vote to deny was unanimous.

Marijuana may be becoming mainstream, but not as mainstream as NIMBY-ism.

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3 responses to “The Great Local Cannabis Caper”

  1. Still not legal until we can home grow. 500$ oz is not affordable. Scutari is holding up hearings for sessions.. People are still being arrested (Hackensack Dias 10/5). Is this what we the people voted for? I think not. Do a real story about how corrupt the whole rollout has been. It’s only legal to sell it. When does the plant officially become legal? When all our aged legislators die off. We need term limits and representation by real people, not just those financially well off that they can serve.

  2. Madison is know for all of the “All are Welcome” signs. Plenty of bars and liquor stores.

    Just so you know the level of hypocrisy you are dealing with.

  3. This article conveniently ignores the fact that this would have been put right next to peoples’ homes on Niles Avenue. I don’t live there but can’t blame them for not wanting a pot dispensary in their backyard. I’m sure they wouldn’t want a liquor store there, either. Being in favor of cannabis use/decriminalization doesn’t mean a that the town wants a dispensary in a bad location. If anything is approved it should be in the central business district (where liquor stores and bars can be found).

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