NJ city worries about racial equity while trying to limit marijuana shops
JERSEY CITY — The City Council on Wednesday night voted down an ordinance that would have capped the number of cannabis businesses at 55.
The ordinance was up for its final reading after a first reading at the council's October 26 meeting despite concerns, which the public reiterated Wednesday.
"I still think there's a lot of questions with this ordinance," Councilwoman Denise Ridley prior to casting a "no" vote. "This number, 55, I don’t know if it is the right number or if it is not the right number. I certainly don’t think that we should allow as many cannabis companies as we can get in the city. I think we need to put a number on it.”
Is 55 too high or too low?
Councilman Richard Boggiano voted no as he thought the number was too high. But the next member to vote, Yousef Saleh, said the number was too low and also voted no.
"It's too little but I'm still going to vote no because there have not been enough cannabis establishments, retail establishments on the south side of the city. I think ultimately council people will start to limit it in their own wards," Saleh said. "We need to do a better effort to reach out to anyone interested in creating a cannabis establishment."
Racial discrimination was also a concern of council member Frank Gilmore who shared many of the same concerns as other members.
"My primary concern is about equity," he said. "While I do understand there needs to be some kind of control we do need to get it right."
Can't tell people where to set up a business
Council President Joyce Watterman, who abstained because her daughter is a cannabis retailer and has already been approved, warned about the limits of equity and the expense of opening this type of business.
"You can't tell people where to open up a business. Because this is something that affects the Black and brown community I think we need to do all we can to make it possible for them to start this business," Watterman said. "There has to be a better mechanism in place for us to help the Black and brown communities be a part of this business."
The city has approved 21 applications so far with 19 of those applicants considered to be "diverse" in terms of the owner being a minority or a woman.
State law does not limit the number of dispensaries that can be opened in any municipality but only 37 can be open statewide until February. Currently, 28 are open.
Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at email@example.com
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