As municipalities weigh the way to deal with the nascent cannabis industry setting up shop in the Garden State, a USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey evaluation of the November poll query legalizing marijuana reveals an nearly common message from voters throughout the state: “historically popular” assist.
Marijuana legalization won the support of voters in 562 of the 565 municipalities in New Jersey, in response to the evaluation, essentially the most detailed evaluate of the vote undertaken up to now.
And of the three cities the place voters rejected the poll query, two are among the many smallest cities within the state with lower than 15 registered voters every.
The evaluate, with scant exception, confirmed the pro-legalization vote prevailed north, central and south, in “red” and “blue” swaths of the state, and in rural and concrete areas alike.
The precise poll query — which amended the structure to legalize the possession, use, purchase, sale and taxation of marijuana — handed 67% to 33% statewide; the evaluation, nevertheless, confirmed for the primary time how the pro-legalization vote transcended acquainted boundaries.
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The widespread success of the New Jersey authorized weed poll query, partly, prompted legislators in New York and Virginia to heat up their own marijuana legalization efforts, mentioned Evan Nison, vice chair of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the nation’s oldest marijuana legalization advocacy group.
“It was historically popular in New Jersey. The public has always led the politicians on this and, in New Jersey, that was even more pronounced,” Nison said. “That’s an indicator to politicians throughout the entire japanese seaboard. Marijuana prohibition is falling a lot faster largely due to how large this was in New Jersey.”
Nonetheless, since Gov. Phil Murphy signed enabling marijuana legalization into law Feb. 22, dozens of cities in New Jersey have handed ordinances opting out of the cannabis industry — basically banning all authorized weed dispensaries, develop amenities and producers. Towns will not be allowed to ban their residents from consuming marijuana, in response to state regulation, nor can they ban licensed cannabis delivery companies from making stops inside their borders.
Against the backdrop of the almost common assist for leisure marijuana — as seen within the evaluation of the November vote — the native ordinances opposing marijuana companies arrange a transparent disconnect between city governments opposing the authorized weed trade, even when a majority of residents assist it.
“I guarantee that, if you put a question saying, ‘Point Pleasant Beach, do you want a marijuana grow or storefront here, it would fail overwhelmingly – Republicans, Democrats, independents,” mentioned Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Paul Kanitra, whose borough council has already launched an opt-out ordinance.
“We have to have a look at the truth of the state of affairs – most of our issues as a city within the summertime come from the overconsumption of medication and alcohol.
“That’s the thing about government, it’s not black and white. You’ll never hear me demonize marijuana users. I’m not a zealot, and I’m not too proud to change my mind if the circumstances change.”
In the state’s most well-known liberal enclaves, authorized weed received with a supermajority. Voters in South Orange, Asbury Park, Hoboken and Montclair all supported the marijuana legalization poll query at an 84% clip.
About 75% of voters within the state’s two greatest cities, Newark and Jersey City, accepted the poll query. But in smaller cities like Paterson and Elizabeth – the third- and fourth-largest cities within the state, respectively – assist dipped to 67% and 62%.
But authorized weed was additionally largely supported by voters in New Jersey’s staunchest Republican fortresses, following nationwide traits that present marijuana legalization has become a purple, bipartisan issue.
A Quinnipiac University ballot launched final week reported that 69% of voters nationwide supported legalizing weed, together with 78% of Democrats, 68% of Republicans and 67% of impartial voters.
For proof of bipartisan assist of marijuana legalization, look no additional than Ocean County.
It is the Republican seat of energy in New Jersey, whose energy brokers nearly single-handedly determine who will run on the Republican ticket for governor each year. Its residents had been megadonors to the Trump Administration. Its former get together chairman was pardoned by President Donald Trump throughout his previous couple of hours in workplace.
And on this conservative capital of New Jersey, greater than 60% of voters backed authorized weed.
Voters in Toms River, the county seat, marijuana legalization was extra well-liked than Trump: About 64% of voters supported authorized weed – 32,000 “yes” votes, the third-highest of any New Jersey municipality – whereas simply 60% voted for Trump.
“Certain parts of the Republican Party have lagged Democrats when it comes to supporting legalization, but the Republican voters have always supported this more than their elected officials,” Nison mentioned. “It’s truly a bipartisan issue now.”
The 60% margin in Ocean County is the bottom amongst all New Jersey counties. About 65% of voters in Warren and Sussex counties supported authorized weed – seven factors increased than the 58% Trump carried in every of these counties. The highest vote margin was in Camden County, the place 75% of voters backed authorized weed, and Essex County, with 72%.
In some smaller, conservative cities, authorized weed was nearly a 50-50 situation. It had simply 50.18% assist in Deal, inching over a majority by simply 5 votes. In close by Sea Girt, a distinction of simply 60 votes separated the “yes” and “no” piles.”
The marijuana legalization poll query failed to achieve 50% assist in solely three municipalities. The situation was soundly rejected by voters in Lakewood, the place solely 31% of its 29,000 voters forged “yes” ballots.
Though he has considerations in regards to the lack of an empirical test to determine drugged driving, Lakewood Mayor Ray Coles mentioned he was glad New Jersey voters legalized weed, particularly citing the necessity to finish marijuana arrests: “Too many lives have been wasted because of criminal convictions,” he mentioned.
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But lots of his residents and neighborhood leaders oppose swinging the doorways open for authorized weed.
More than 70 rabbis signed a letter discouraging the city from permitting dispensaries, and drug use of any sort is shunned upon by the city’s burgeoning Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, which makes up an estimated two-thirds of Lakewood’s inhabitants of over 106,000.
And even when the Lakewood Township Committee needed to license a dispensary, Coles is not certain the place it could go: With an estimated 150 private and non-private faculties within the city, a lot of it’s a drug-free college zone.
State regulation prohibits any drug possession or sale inside 1,000 ft of college grounds, together with licensed cannabis companies. Operators should additionally adhere to any native drug-free college zone legal guidelines.
“The Orthodox community is very conservative. A lot of popular culture isn’t seen as positive — there are very few, if any, televisions in homes,” Coles mentioned. “Smartphones have filtering software program to they’ll’t take you to sure web sites. And the children spend an terrible period of time at school studying secular and spiritual research.
“It’s just a conservative town.”
The different two municipalities the place authorized weed failed had been Walpack in Sussex County and Tavistock in Camden County, the 2 smallest municipalities within the state. Of Walpack’s 13 registered voters, solely 11 forged ballots on authorized weed, rejecting it by a 5-to-6 vote.
In Tavistock, the query tied with a 1-to-1 vote. The city has simply seven registered voters.
The story continues beneath the gallery.
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Marijuana crosses generational divides
About 58% of voters supported marijuana legalization within the state’s 10 youngest cities, in response to Census information.
Those embody the state’s conventional faculty cities, like New Brunswick (the place Rutgers University is headquartered) and Glassboro (residence of Rowan University), the place the median age is 23.6 and 28.2 years previous, respectively, and 76% and 72% voted “yes” on authorized weed.
But it additionally consists of suburban and rural cities like Chesterfield and North Hanover, in Burlington County, the place two-thirds of voters supported authorized weed and the median age between 29 and 30 years previous.
The solely outlier? Lakewood, as soon as once more, the place authorized weed was voted down by a margin lager than 2-to-1. It’s the youngest municipality within the state by median age, 16.3 — pushed, like its booming inhabitants, by households with giant numbers of kids.
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Combined, the ten youngest municipalities in New Jersey supported marijuana legalization at a 58% charge.
But within the 10 cities with the oldest median age, marijuana legalization assist stayed at 58%.
In Cape May Point, median age 73.3, greater than 61% of voters supported authorized weed. And between 55% and 67% of voters forged “yes” ballots in Long Beach Township, Lavallette, Harvey Cedars and Avalon, all with a median age about 65 years previous.
Marijuana as a typical denominator among the many generations is nothing new. According to a Quinnipiac University ballot launched final week, 69% of voters nationwide assist authorized weed, together with greater than three-quarters of voters underneath 34 years previous and greater than half of voters over 65 years previous.
“Most individuals understand they had been lied to at one level of their life about cannabis,” Nison mentioned.
But whereas voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of legalizing marijuana, elected officers in lots of cities have remained steadfastly in opposition to them.
In December 2017, Point Pleasant Beach grew to become one of many first municipalities in New Jersey to introduce an ordinance banning legal weed companies equivalent to dispensaries, develop amenities and producers, although such companies had been years away from actuality.
And 4 years later, the council has launched one other ordinance opting out of authorized weed — state regulation rendered all earlier opt-out ordinances moot — although Kanitra, the city’s mayor, mentioned he wasn’t expressly in opposition to marijuana use or legalization usually.
“I’m not anti-marijuana. I’m anti- any more vices in town,” he mentioned. “I don’t want more liquor stores. We’ve already moved to limit the number of vape shops and cigarette places.”
Under the brand new regulation authorizing authorized weed, marijuana residence supply is expressly allowed, even in cities the place companies themselves are outlawed. And Kanitra would not anticipate Point Pleasant Beach residents should drive very far outdoors of the borough to acquire it themselves.
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“If we were the size of Jackson or Stafford, I genuinely think I’d have a different position. If my residents had to drive an hour to get marijuana, I think I’d be in a much different mindset,” Kanitra mentioned. “Other towns are going to fill the need for my residents — and they can still get marijuana delivered to their homes, whether it’s someone with glaucoma or someone who just wants to have a good weekend.”
Municipalities have till August to cross an ordinance both prohibiting or otherwise setting regulations for marijuana businesses, or else they are going to be grandfathered into current retail and industrial zones.
“A municipal ban doesn’t necessarily ban candidates from that municipality, it just bans our ability to regulate an industry there,” mentioned Jeff Brown, govt director of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which can oversee the medical marijuana and authorized weed industries in New Jersey. “I’d encourage all municipalities to work with us, wait to see the rules that we do earlier than making a choice on which manner you wish to go.
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“Certainly, we want to hear from all of you on your concerns and the issues that you’re facing with your constituents, but it’s going to be important that these businesses have a place to go and have a place to set up.”
The Lakewood Township Committee has already introduced its ordinance banning marijuana sales. But Coles took solace in the truth that it’s simply an ordinance — and future committees may change their thoughts.
“I think what it’s really going to take in Lakewood, and for a lot of other towns, is time — time for people to get used to the idea,” Coles mentioned. “I’m 63 and my whole life, it’s been unlawful and felony. People had been raised on that and I believe it’s going to take time for individuals to see that it has a spot, that it’s to not totally different from alcohol — which is instantly accepted by most individuals on the town.
“There’s going to be a learning curve.”