Could marijuana be legal in one NJ city shortly? The public weighs in officially

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HOBOKEN, NJ — This North Jersey city is having a public conversation regarding legalizing marijuana here. It’s currently considering establishing fixed sites for medical marijuana dispensaries, but with the New Jersey state legislature expected to decide sometime soon whether or not to legalize recreational marijuana use, Hoboken is also examining the prospect of siting locations for general marijuana growth and sales, as well.

“I personally don't use it, I don't care,” said Hoboken resident Rocco Scibetta. "But if you’re going to tax it, make it legal, and make it safe [why not?]. People are going to do it anyway.”

His voice, and his opinion, are among those that the city administration has been hoping to hear. It scheduled a public hearing at the Jubilee Center at 601 Jackson Street, for 6:30 p.m. Monday.

People who spoke with PIX11 News about the issue before the meeting were generally supportive of legalization.

“It's going to benefit the city and it'll benefit you,” said Crystal Troncoso, a resident. “I think it's amazing.”

She specifically referred to the prospect of the city taxing marijuana sales.

Another person who spoke with PIX11 News about the issue was the manager of the Hoboken Smoke Shop, who did not give his name. Nonetheless, he said he wanted it to be known that while he doesn’t violate the law by selling marijuana, he does legally sell apparatuses that people use to smoke it.

He said that he has customers who already legally obtain marijuana, so why not make it legal, closer to home, and tax it, he asked.

One of the smoke shop’s customers, Steven Moore, agreed, as he shopped for paraphernalia with his wife, Alisha.

“Turn it into a business,” Moore told PIX11 News. “It could be lucrative to this city.”

The retail plan, whether it would apply strictly to medical marijuana use, or to recreational use as well, would allow only three locations in the city. All of the locations would have to be in areas zoned for non-residential use, and each outlet would have to pay a $15,000 yearly fee to the city in order to operate.

“It could be a real boon for the city,” Mayor Ravinder Bhalla said in an interview.

He said that his administration was interested in the issue as a matter of criminal justice, among other concerns.

Bhalla said that law enforcement tends to prosecute communities of color most heavily regarding marijuana possession and use, and that Hoboken was interested in “exploring” “a conversation” about that aspect of the issue in its Monday evening town hall meeting.

The New Jersey state legislature is expected to consider marijuana legalization later this year or early next year.

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