The will of the people, or the will of the narrative?
I’ll start with a question - Would you rather invest in a growing business with a high return, or a dying business with little to no return?
I would imagine we’re all going to choose the former over the latter, but unfortunately, our Clifton City Council does not agree.
Your feelings on the subject aside, it’s safe to say that cannabis is a growing business in the state of New Jersey since its opening of recreational use on April 21, 2022. Between April 21 and June 30, 2022, the state of New Jersey collected $4.6 million dollars in tax revenue from cannabis sales. Let’s say that Clifton took 1% of that, we would have $46,000 in tax revenue in only 10 weeks’ time. Our last council voted down the opportunity of any cannabis business opening in Clifton without having read the state regulations.
Our mayor, then councilman, said at the council meeting on Tuesday, September 8, 2021, “My thought on this is that 6 of us voted against all 6 [licenses]. Unless someone from here, and we can ask them all, unless you can get 3 other people to agree with you, there’s no discussion. So we could go down the line, and if everyone says no, we’re still of the same frame that we don’t want to entertain any of them, then there’s no discussion. Why would we discuss it?”
This comes after 61.6% of Clifton voted to legalize cannabis in the state of New Jersey. (Sounds like the “will of the people” to me for anyone who was following the vote for mayor)
On the other side of the coin, council has agreed 5-1 to take on the responsibility of running a styrofoam recycling machine that will require a $25,000 investment to renovate the barn on city property (albeit used by grant money), and could earn us up to $18,000/year if all 16 municipalities contribute their styrofoam to it. The idea by the 5 in favor of taking on this machine is that even if we break even, we will have helped the planet.
How are styrofoam and cannabis connected? Well, they aren’t, other than one is a clearly booming business, and the other is a dying one. I bring the two topics together because of how the decisions were made by the council.
Throughout the meetings when the cannabis topic came up, we either heard, “Not in Clifton,” with very little detail, as we saw from the quote from our current mayor above, or “we do not have enough information to make such a big decision.” Conversely, we’re taking the “give it a year” approach with the styrofoam recycling to “see how it goes.” Only Councilwoman Mary Sadrakula brought up the fact that we are seeing less and less styrofoam in general, and costs of running the machine could lead to us losing money. Other than that, there was no mention of needing more information. Montclair has this machine. Did anyone from Clifton council reach out to our neighbors to see how it’s going? There was no mention of Montclair at either meeting where this topic was featured.
With a basic google search, I was able to find out that styrofoam is banned in 8 states and 1 US territory, with more proposals on the way. Without any research, you can see that your packages are coming with less styrofoam and more paper and cardboard-based solutions. So why would we agree to take this machine on, even with the use of grant money?
“New Jersey adult-use marijuana sales exceeded $100 million for the first time in the third quarter of the 2022 fiscal year, with combined medical and recreational cannabis purchases totaling $177,710,764” as of December 16, 2022. With a basic google search you can also find out what any other municipality in any other state is doing to work with the cannabis industry to better their communities. This is easy tax revenue for a city that has a challenging budget with rising costs and new garbage contracts. With a basic google search, you can find out that our Clifton City Council would have the power to dictate hours, locations, storefronts, etc. Our council refused to do the work because they personally do not like the idea of cannabis. Their reasons were based on “reefer madness” propaganda that has been debunked for decades. We have so much information on the subject, yet they claimed “not enough information” and refused to read the regulations before making a decision. They went against the will of 61.6% of Clifton voters.
Our council only cares about “the will of the people” when it suits their narratives. We are looking at a 3-point tax hike, and our city’s answer is investing in a dying business that will no longer be a threat to our earth coming soon because it’s something they’re more comfortable with.
Our “new” Clifton City Council can change their minds about cannabis businesses at any time. With “the will of the people” top of mind, and even more information out about cannabis in NJ, let’s continue to challenge them.