ATL. HIGHLANDS – The governing body heard arguments and support for both sides of whether cannabis businesses should be permitted in any of a variety of forms during a 90-minute public workshop on the subject last night, but announced no decision on what further actions they will take.
Four former mayors spoke during the workshop, with former Mayor Randi LeGrice pointing out information she had learned during many seminars she and Councilman Steve Boracchia attended on the subject during her term in office. The former mayor pointed out that since credit cards are governed by federal regulations because of banking regulations, all transactions for cannabis sales must be handled in cash.
Boracchia, who has also done further considerable research on the subject, and has personal knowledge of cannabis businesses in California, said Congressional members are currently working on an amendment to that regulation and it is likely credit cards will then be permitted.
Boracchia gave detailed descriptions of each of the six types of cannabis businesses that are allowed under laws passed by the state after a state-wide referendum indicating voters are in favor of legalizing cannabis, noting that under two of the business ventures, dispensaries and growth of cannabis plants, the borough would receive two percent of sales as a tax paid directly to the chief financial officer. A wholesale business, where businesses could secure cannabis from sources and resell it, would net the borough one percent. There are no municipal tax benefits under distribution businesses, he explained, nor under delivery of cannabis.
Local resident Jim Krauss, at the invitation of council following his studies, further noted that under state law, any businesses permitted in the borough would have to be owned by person or persons who have been New Jersey residents for two years or more, and 51 percent of employees must be residents of the borough or surrounding communities, which would include Highlands and Middletown. No more than ten employees can be retained by any cannabis business, he said, and no business can be more than 2500 square fee in size. Councilwoman Lori Hohenleitner listed the number of towns in Monmouth County who have approved some type of cannabis business, including Highlands, which has approved retail sales either in the borough’s business district or on Route 36.
Former Mayor Richard Stryker urged the governing body to put the matter to a public referendum, possibly in November, to let residents make the decision, a recommendation supported by former Mayor Michael Harmon.
However, former Mayor Fred Rast, whose professional career and current status are all in law enforcement warned Council “The town is gonna fall apart, “ and said “we are stepping down a big hall.” He reminded council members that they are elected to give guidance to what the people want in their municipality and urged them to “use common sense.”
Although Council did not indicate whether they would seek further input from the public during any future workshops, they could introduce an ordinance which would give the public an opportunity to express their opinions both at the time of introduction and at the public hearing on a specific ordinance at two future meetings.
News publisher Allan Dean urged the governing body to explore all possibilities, including the tax benefits for the borough, as well as making a decision without a referendum, which he said is delaying action on the prominent issue.
Several residents spoke both in favor of and against cannabis sales, with many expressing thanks to Council President Brian Boms, who conducted the meeting in the absence of Mayor Loretta Gluckstein, for having the informational session and listening to local concerns and ideas.