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Seaside Park Prohibits Marijuana-Based Businesses, Public Smoking

Marijuana (Photo: Katheirne Hitt/Flickr)

Marijuana (Photo: Katheirne Hitt/Flickr)

Seaside Park has become the latest Jersey Shore town to introduce a ban on cannabis-based businesses following the statewide legalization of marijuana.

A constitutional amendment lifting the state’s prohibition on marijuana was approved by voters last November, and enabling legislation was passed earlier this year. Under that legislation, towns were given 180 days to determine whether they would allow or disallow cannabis-based businesses, leading Seaside Park officials to ban all six classes of businesses outlined in state policy.

The state divides cannabis businesses into six categories: cultivation, manufacturing (cultivation), wholesaling, distributing, retailing and delivery services. Seaside Park’s ordinance, as introduced last Thursday night, would ban businesses in every category. The ordinance is subject to a public hearing and second vote at the council’s next meeting.

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Seaside Park has long been noted for its strict marijuana enforcement in the past, at one point being ranked the town with the highest number of marijuana-related arrests per capita in New Jersey.

“This has been a product of a lot of research on the part of the town and the police department,” said Mayor John A. Peterson. “All six classes are being banned. Even if the town were to consider these businesses, they would be adjoining other businesses and residences.”

The council unanimously voted in favor of the ban.

No members of the public commented on the measure after its introduction. For elected officials, the state’s 180 day policy comes with consequences. If no ordinance was adopted, cannabis-based businesses would have been allowed to open in the appropriate zones – for example, retail dispensaries in a business zone and a cultivation facility in an industrial zone for five years. After that period, existing businesses would be grandfathered in and could continue to operate, while the township would have a new 180 period to prohibit new businesses from opening.

Seaside Park’s ban will prohibit all classes of cannabis businesses, including delivery services. But while delivery services will not be allowed to base themselves in the borough, they will still be able to make deliveries to customers, meaning that cannabis consumers in town will have such an option in the future if they wish to purchase legal marijuana.

A companion ordinance, also introduced in a unanimous vote by the council, modified the borough’s existing anti-smoking ordinance to include marijuana smoke plus vaporizer devices.

“The ordinance uses the language in the enabling legislation,” said Borough Attorney Steven Zabarsky. “The act provides that we can do that, so we’re amending our ordinance to prohibit cannabis.”

The smoking ordinance, codified in chapter 383 of the borough code, prevents smoking – both tobacco and now marijuana – within public buildings owned or controlled and on public property, including all parks and beaches. Specifically, smoking is banned at:

  • O Street and Lake Avenue.
  • Fifth Avenue pier and playground, including the bathing beach.
  • Fourteenth Avenue pier, including boat ramp, pavilion and parking area.
  • K Street wharf area.
  • Bayside bulkhead area between M and N Streets.
  • Bayside bulkhead area between N and O Streets.
  • Seaside Park Marina.
  • Public oceanfront beaches beginning along the easterly side of Ocean Avenue, including but not limited to all beaches, dunes, beach plantings and waters from the southerly side of Stockton Avenue to Fourteenth Avenue, including but not limited to the public boardwalk, boardwalk access and pavilions.
  • Public bayfront beaches.

New laws that limit the ability of police officers to enforce laws regarding the underage use of both alcohol and marijuana will also be a challenge for officers this summer, officials expect. Additional officers are being hired this summer, including 10 Class I special officers who are not armed.

“Last summer, we were operating with no Class I officers and half a dozen Class IIs,” said Police Chief James Boag, while this year the borough will have the aforementioned 10 class I officers and 15 class II officers, who are armed.

“Any time they’re dealing with underage drinking or marijuana on the boardwalk, a supervisor is going to have to be called to the scene,” Boag said. “We’re still trying to figure it out ourselves, so we’re not going to throw a new, younger officer out there.”

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