Seaside Heights Mayor Anthony Vaz first expressed his concern over the legal sale of marijuana the day after Phil Murphy was elected New Jersey governor, and now he is the latest in a string of Shore area leaders who want dispensaries banned in their communities.
Vaz, who has spearheaded an effort to redevelop Seaside Heights into a family-oriented resort and shed its hard-partying image, said Wednesday that he and the borough council are looking crafting regulations that would either ban or severely limit the sale of marijuana, should it become legal statewide. Murphy, a Democrat, campaigned on the plant’s legalization. Vaz, a Republican who is also a former schools superintendent in Spotswood, said he is against legalization because he has seen youngsters graduate to harder drugs after trying it.
“I can understand medical use, but I am against using it recreationally,” Vaz said.
Point Pleasant Beach has already developed an ordinance banning its sale and Lavallette has expressed an interest in a ban as well. For Seaside Heights, even more is at stake, as the borough is trying to lure investors and business owners to help develop a family-friendly reputation.
Vaz said plans under consideration include an all-out ban, if it is allowed by law, or a regulatory system that could license just one dispensary in town.
“We’ve seen the beautiful city of Denver Colorado – even though they’re making plenty of money – go downhill,” said Vaz, referencing an increase in homelessness and traffic accidents. “As a community that has focused our attention to families, we don’t want this.”
Borough Attorney Jean Cipriani did not offer any opinions on the ban at Wednesday’s meeting. Lavallette’s borough attorney, Philip George, advised officials there to wait until a legalization measure is passed before responding with a local ordinance.
“I might be jumping the gun, but I want to be ahead of the game,” he said.