The Garden State wants cannabis — just not in their backyards

3 mins read

Despite overwhelmingly indicating that they wanted adult-use cannabis legalized in the state, nearly half of municipalities in New Jersey could opt out of the new legal program, reports Gothamist.

What gives?

Municipalities have until Aug. 21 to opt out of cannabis retail, wholesale and manufacturing. If they don’t, they’re locked in for a minimum of five years. That’s scaring some cities off, with officials expressing concerns for child safety and others saying they want to opt-in eventually, but after they see how others fare first. 

With a 2% tax and licensing fees at stake, some municipalities will likely change their minds. Thankfully, they can opt in at any time.

Weed deserts are common 

New Jersey is hardly the first legal state to host multiple weed deserts. In Canada, approximately two million people live in a city that has opted out of cannabis retail. From Abbotsford, B.C. to Mississauga, Ontario — which has a population of more than 820,000 — weed deserts are common.

Despite missing out on tax revenue and experiencing an uptick in illicit cannabis activity, Mississauga council voted against stores again in June, this time out of concern for “clusters” of stores negatively impacting neighbourhoods.

But there’s hope

Modesto, California has a happier ending: The conservative-leaning town initially opted out of cannabis. Modesto’s first weed stores didn’t open until 2019, three years after legalization. Now, the town has the first “citywide cannabis tourism program” in the US, according to Forbes, as a way to manage tourism revenue losses through the pandemic.

“In this postpandemic world that we’re moving into, travelers are driving around a lot,” said Visit Modesto CEO Todd Aaronson. “And if 30% of all travelers are interested in cannabis in one way, shape or another, well then why don’t we help them find easy access and enjoy the process?”

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