TOMS RIVER – A few years ago, Toms River opted out of allowing cannabis businesses in town, but some residents continue to push for it.
Ortley Beach resident Daniel Kessel, who runs an online business BudHub, said he supports the modern regulations to keep the industry honest.
“You think there’s a dome in Toms River that’s not letting people buy cannabis and bring it back? It’s here. Take the money from it,” he said during a recent Township Council meeting. “The things the council fears by opting in is happening because they are opted out.”
“Whether you like it or not, cannabis is in Toms River. It’s not out of sight, out of mind,” he said. “It means that the Toms River Police Department is dealing with the ‘problem’ without getting the resources” from extra funding.
When Gov. Phil Murphy signed bills in February of 2021 allowing cannabis businesses in the state, he gave every town until August 22 to opt out of it. Lakehurst and South Toms River were the only Ocean County towns to allow recreational cannabis sales. The South Toms River store, Social Leaf, opened this year while the Lakehurst one is still underway. Waretown’s Bloc is now also authorized to sell recreational weed.
It’s been reported that the first three weeks that they were in business, Social Leaf paid South Toms River $30,000.
Multiply that to stretch it across the year, and it could potentially bring in half a million dollars. That’s a huge amount for a small town like South Toms River. It’s also a significant amount for a big town like Toms River.
Waretown has the first medicinal marijuana dispensary in the county, called BLOC. That town recently opted to allow recreational cannabis out of the same facility.
Opponents of recreational cannabis have said that the money is not the most important part of the legalization question. They worry about the drug getting into the hands of minors and, even in adults, being a gateway to other drugs.
People who are against legalization site the dangers of driving while under the influence and the increased police and first aid that would be required.
In the early days of legalization, people discussed the issue of where a cannabis business would be located. Some areas and neighborhoods wouldn’t want that nearby. They might be in favor of the business, but Not In My Back Yard.
Toms River opted out of cannabis businesses in 2021. Members of the council at the time said that the legalization was hastily made. The town didn’t want to get stuck in something they wouldn’t be able to get out of later. If a town allowed a business, that business would be grandfathered in even if the town changed its mind later.
When the legalization question was put on the ballot, 64% of Toms River voters were for cannabis legalization. Much has been made of this statistic in recent years.