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Sunday, June 4, 2023

Edit: “Cannabis is still burning” – Hunterdon Review

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We recently published an editorial on these pages regarding the ongoing cannabis disputes with the first line, “Sometimes you can’t win versus lose.”

High Bridge walked with what appeared to be a compromise when the state asked it to either sign up or not allow the cannabis business in its borders.

Back in November of 2020, New Jersey voters voted overwhelmingly — about 70 percent — in favor of legalizing recreational cannabis in the state.

High Bridge voters cast their votes in roughly the same proportion for and against — 70 percent in favour, according to Mayor Michael Lee.

Seven of the eight municipalities in the Hunterdon Review coverage area selected, effectively banning any recreational cannabis businesses in California, Clinton, Clinton Township, Lebanon, Lebanon Township, Reddington Township and Toxbury Township.

High Bridge decided not to take any action at all, which, according to the mayor, had the default effect of opting to participate for five years.

At a borough meeting on January 13, the council introduced an ordinance to set the rules before any entity could apply to start a cannabis business.

As Councilman Steve Strange said, it’s best to set the rules now before someone steps in and then expects them to follow rules they didn’t know.

But the vast majority of public comments seemed unwilling to accept the fact that a town could regulate cannabis within state law.

Several complaints included an unwillingness to have children walk next to a building where cannabis is grown or sold.

But residents – parents included – have to accept the fact that this is a case where recreational cannabis is now legal, and that is out of the town’s control.

Parents and schools have to teach children how to navigate the legal world of cannabis, one that is already pervasive despite years of illegality.

These firms will at least be able to control the age of buyers better than the black market dealer lurking in a dark street corner.

Mayor Lee has taken what we believe is a positive step by holding an intense two-hour Zoom conference call for residents, Cannabis City Hall, where expert speakers gather together to present data and take questions from residents.

As the mayor said, this was an educational opportunity to learn about legalized cannabis.

Perhaps the surprising part was not that some on the call were still not ready to accept this reality.

But is legalized and well-controlled cannabis sales really a bad thing? Is it really that different from the way our society deals with alcohol sales?

After all, it is a proven fact that alcohol harms and kills more people than cannabis users.

Will hemp be available when the cannabis business opens more legally than it is now?

Wouldn’t it be better for towns and the state to earn some tax revenue that could help deal with any societal or health problems that occur due to any anticipated increase in cannabis use?

At least those who buy will be dealing with reputable, well-controlled, legal businessmen and not some lawbreaker in the shadows, putting your reputation – and your freedom – at risk.

We have to keep having conversations and keep adapting to the modern world.

Let’s keep talking, and let’s keep our minds open.

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