PATERSON, N.J. — Despite New Jersey legalizing recreational marijuana earlier this year, the Paterson City Council recently voted to ban recreational marijuana businesses. However, Mayor Andre Sayegh has the power to veto that vote.
With only until Saturday to do so because of state law, Sayegh shared his thoughts with PIX11’s Betty Nguyen Friday morning.
“It’s in my back pocket. I’m not gonna tip my hand, but I’m weighing all my options right now. I don’t want Paterson to be left out,” Sayegh said.
The city council believes banning it now will give the city more time to craft a better plan to bring those businesses to the city, but it seems Sayegh may feel differently.
“I don’t want to dissuade investors from coming into Paterson. We currently have a medical marijuana dispensary that’s doing very well,” the mayor said. “We don’t want to miss out on this opportunity for a new revenue stream, and also employment opportunities,” he added.
Sayegh said he originally was willing to compromise and leave retail out of the plan for now, due to the concerns, “but I don’t feel like cultivation would pose a problem or distribution would cause a problem,” he said.
The mayor pointed out that Paterson has surrounding towns that have opted in to opening dispensaries that sell recreational pot, so Paterson residents could easily order it from those locations.
“We won’t reap any of the rewards. We won’t realize any of the revenue,” Sayegh pointed out
He said the one current medical dispensary brings in about $60,000 in revenue for the city.
Sayegh added that the decision isn’t just about economics, but about social justice, as well.
“We’ve been impacted severely in this city. Communities of color have been disproportionally affected,” the mayor said of past marijuana arrests and convictions.
Sayegh also spoke on Friday about Paterson being newly designated as a First Class City after the recent Census count revealed a population of nearly 160,000 residents.
The mayor explained what this meant for the city, including additional federal funding for things like street repairs and other infrastructure projects.
Plus, Sayegh shared what Paterson is doing to combat the trend of gun violence in the city, including gun suppression efforts.
Watch the full interview with Mayor Sayegh above.