No pot for now: Westfield council votes against cannabis shops

No pot for now: Westfield council votes against cannabis shops

By Caren Lissner

The Westfield Town Council voted Tuesday night to introduce an ordinance "opting out"—for now—of allowing cannabis shops in town.

What partly drove the decision is that the council can change its mind at any time, members noted before the vote. Under current state legislation, a municipality that votes to allow the shops must do so for at least five years—but a town that votes no can make a new decision later.

With marijuana legalized last year for recreational use in New Jersey, all towns were told they must vote to opt in or opt out by this summer.

Mayor Shelley Brindle had assembled a 17-member Cannabis Commission earlier this year to listen to the public and make recommendations.

"Not surprisingly, it turned out to be a mix of responses," said Councilman Michael Dardia at the meeting.

The Commission members complained that the state required an answer in a "short and compressed period of time."

Ultimately the Commission recommended in a letter to the council Tuesday morning that the council vote "no."

The unanimous council vote Tuesday night—held at the end of a 2.5-hour meeting—was to prohibit the operation of any class of cannabis operation in town. The measure will go to a final hearing and vote at a future meeting.

Councilman Mark Parmelee noted that Westfield has not received any serious inquires from someone wanting to open such a shop, either recently, or back when medical marijuana was legalized in New Jersey.

But, he noted, "The support for [cannabis shops impacted] our decision that this doesn't mean we'll opt out forever."

The letter from the Cannabis Commission is at the end of this story.

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