OCEAN CITY - Ocean City Council is taking steps to ensure marijuana will not be sold in “America’s Greatest Family Resort.”
The council March 11 passed an ordinance on first reading, stating the “mayor and council believe there is no area of the city which can safely house a business selling marijuana, cannabis or hashish and/or the paraphernalia that facilitates the use.”
After Gov. Phil Murphy made recreational marijuana legal for those over 21 Feb. 22, municipalities have been scrambling to figure out how they will address the change locally.
Ocean City is making its position clear. At a Feb. 25 public meeting, Mayor Jay Gillian said the new law “disgusts” him, calling it “ridiculous.”
According to Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson, a zoning ordinance passed in 2019 prohibited the sale, manufacturing, or dispensing of marijuana in any zone in the city, but Murphy’s legislation invalidated that ordinance.
“We're bringing forward a new ordinance to renew that and revalidate that prohibition,” McCrosson told the council.
In November 2020, 67% of New Jersey voters, who answered a ballot question asking their position on recreational weed, voted in favor of legalization; 65.9% of voters in Cape May County were in favor.
However, different parts of the law have been unpopular, including a clause that limits law enforcement’s ability to contact parents of juveniles they interact with who are intoxicated on a first offense.
Public reaction to Ocean City’s ordinance was mixed.
David Breeden, of Ocean City, told the council during public comment he supports the action, which stays true to the town’s core values.
“Ocean City is a family resort, and anything that erodes that, we need to take decisive action quickly, in order to prevent that, so, thank you very much for that ordinance, which helps with preserving our family resort image,” Breeden said.
However, two medical marijuana patients spoke, imploring the council to at least consider dispensaries for patients with prescriptions.
Marina Redmon, who said she has stage 4 cancer and anxiety, told the council she lost 50 pounds in three weeks when she was first diagnosed with cancer, before receiving her medical marijuana card.
“They sell opioids in your town, in the pharmacies. Am I correct? I mean, I don't understand why you're banning one medicine. This is medicine. This helps people. This helps people grow, this helps people be without pain, be without torture,” she said. “I couldn't live without it, and I can't say enough of this medicine.”
Chris Almada became a medical cannabis patient when he shattered his pelvis in a car accident, forcing him to spend three years in a wheelchair.
“It’s hard to go on, say, a weekend off to the shore and trying to figure out where I can get my medical cannabis accessibly,” Almada said. “I would like you guys to revisit at least the medical side.”
“It would be nice if people who are visiting your town or people in your town could get this medicine easily, with grace and ease and with love and joy, not frustration,” said Redmon.
Hugh Giordano, a representative from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 152, agreed that having a pharmacy, but not a dispensary, doesn’t make sense and implored the council to see the difference between medical and recreational use of the drug.
“As the labor union that represents cannabis workers from seed to sale - both adult-use and medical - I'm asking you to consider at least offering, as you have pharmacies in your town, sick people and dying people the opportunity to get their medicine from a pharmacy, from a medical dispensary, and also create good union jobs within Ocean City,” Giordano said.
Council members did not offer any response to the public comments.
The ordinance, which received unanimous support on the council, will be up for a second reading and public hearing before final adoption March 25.
To contact Shay Roddy, email email@example.com.