The borough of Oakland, New Jersey approved the establishment of non-retail cannabis businesses in designated zones a year ago but is now reconsidering this decision. Council members are contemplating repealing three ordinances passed last year as soon as this week.
Last week's council work session was prompted by a tort claim filed against the borough on December 21 by Kusala Care LLC, which sought damages for the borough's failure to act on its application to open a cannabis cultivation facility. The debate over repeal has continued at several meetings, with council members expressing doubts about their decision.
While 62% of borough voters approved legalizing adult recreational marijuana in the statewide referendum, some council members are voicing concerns over the potential health risks of cannabis. Councilman John McCann is particularly vocal in advising members to "follow the science" and refuse to allow marijuana businesses in the borough.
Councilman Pat Pignatelli's concerns are more focused on the unpredictable nature of the state's rules and regulations regarding cannabis. He worries that the rules may be changed at any moment, creating uncertainty for the council and its constituents.
The state's approach to marijuana regulation is also a concern, with Councilman Eric Kulmala characterizing it as "building the plane while they're trying to fly it." Questions have arisen around odor enforcement and how the state plans to handle this issue.
Mayor Linda Schwager is seeking more discussion and a public hearing before the ordinances are repealed. She cites the financial benefits of allowing cannabis companies to operate in the borough, with the requirement that companies give 2% of their gross income to pay down the borough's debt. Additionally, cannabis companies could potentially help defray the costs of a state-mandated water purchase program.
Schwager has expressed concern over the potential repeal and wants further discussion before making any decisions. The council will consider the repeal at their next meeting.