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A ‘nuisance’: West Milford wants to oust unlicensed cannabis retailers

In World
April 19, 2024

On the brink of cannabis culture’s high holiday, April 20, West Milford officials called to oust the town’s unregulated cannabis retailers.

Council members this week urged strict enforcement of local regulations regarding cannabis distribution, saying the prevalence of unlicensed shops has become a nuisance. As the only upper Passaic County town that permits cannabis retail shops, West Milford has become a go-to location for entrepreneurs. However, officials said complaints from residents regarding the growing number of retail locations are rolling in.

The 80-square-mile township of 24,000 has four licensed cannabis retailers in operation, the most of any North Jersey town apart from Jersey City. However, to many, it seems like much more, said Councilman David Marsden.

“People say they’re popping up all over the place. It’s not the licensed ones,” Marsden said during the council’s Wednesday meeting.

Council members had for weeks considered a future reduction of local retail licenses to five from the current 10 by eliminating licenses as they expire to quell complaints about the growing number of retailers. Though only four licensed cannabis retailers are open, six other shops have been endorsed by the local government and are in various stages of licensing, town officials said.

This week, however, council members tabled that discussion to focus on unlicensed retailers, including mobile shops.

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Councilman Michael Chazukow, a longtime cannabis advocate, said reducing the number of retail licenses by ordinance could harm some or all of the 10 retailers since the licenses are tied to specific sites and applicants. Moreover, a reduction of licenses would make the number of cannabis licenses even more out of parity with the nearly 20 active liquor retailer licenses in town and potentially benefit the retailers that skirt local and state regulations designed to protect consumers, he said.

“I think it would be a horrible travesty of justice if we were to punish the compliant operators and allow the non-compliant to continue doing their work and poaching revenue from the municipality and the compliant operators,” Chazukow said.

Rachel Lyons, owner of the licensed Jersey Roots Dispensary on Union Valley Road set for an April 20 grand opening, said legal cannabis dispensaries in town are united in their effort to remove the stigma associated with cannabis, its culture and sales, which have fueled local concerns and council discussions, she said.

“I don’t think the illegal shops and the bud buses have the same initiative that we do,” Lyons said.

Lyons said local government officials need to develop more ways to crack down on unregulated retailers, as fines have left some undeterred. She added that the situation in the township may benefit from assistance from the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which establishes and enforces the state’s cannabis rules and regulations.

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: West Milford NJ wants to oust unlicensed cannabis retailers

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