Brick Has Questions About Legalizing Marijuana

Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn

BRICK – Would Brick township join numerous other New Jersey municipalities who have vowed to ban the sale of recreational marijuana if it becomes legal in the state?

While he was campaigning, Gov. Phil Murphy said he would sign legislation to legalize the use of recreational marijuana within 100 days of taking office.

Without seeing an actual law or at least a bill pending, Mayor John G. Ducey said he doesn’t know what the impact would be on Brick Township.

No one knows if the state would keep the tax revenue, or if the towns with dispensaries would keep it, or perhaps all towns would benefit from the tax revenue – whether they’ve banned the sale or not, he said in a recent interview.

“The problem is, even if towns ban the sale of marijuana, they can’t ban people from using it in their town since it would be a state law, and they would have the same problems without any of the benefits,” said Ducey, who is an attorney.

For example, the cost of enforcement would go up since the police department would need additional DRE (drug recognition officers), he said.

That’s true, said Brick Police Chief James Riccio, who said he is for the legal use of medicinal marijuana but “not so much for recreational use.”

Brick has two DRE officers who are trained to determine whether someone is using drugs based on certain tests. The breathalyzer is used for testing individuals who might be under the influence of alcohol, but there is no such test for prescription drugs or marijuana, Riccio said, so the DRE officers would need extra training.

(Photo by Micromedia Publications)

He said marijuana is way for young people to start moving onto other drugs, “because we’ve seen it, so for that reason I’m against it,” he said in a recent phone interview.

Riccio said that if the legalization of marijuana becomes law, the politicians need to consider some of the ramifications.

“For example, we have three [drug sniffing] K-9 dogs, what happens to them? The dogs can’t differentiate between marijuana, cocaine or heroin, and the sale of marijuana would still be illegal on the federal level, which would cause confusion,” Riccio said. “We need answers to these things.”

The police chief said that police applicants get screened and police officers get randomly screened for drugs and “I’d be inclined not to accept an applicant who tested positive.”

Brick Council President Heather deJong said that even though it is currently not legal to use or sell marijuana in New Jersey, and no bill has been posted in the state legislature, she heard a rumor that any town that opts out of allowing the sale of marijuana would also be opted out of any potential tax influx from the state.

“Hypothetically, if it were legal to use and sell, it would still be legal to use in those towns where selling has been banned,” deJong wrote in an email.

“With that you are still getting all the risk, and it would be monetarily irresponsible to ban the sale,” deJong said. “We still would have the added cost of training and detection for our law enforcement along with whatever hidden costs that would be found through legislation.”