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Friday, April 12, 2024

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Weed Remains a Hot Topic in Wildwood

Weed Smoker Beach - Shutterstock.jpg

By Shay Roddy

WILDWOOD – In recent months, during the pandemic, the Wildwood Board of Commissioners have gathered around a spaced-out conference table in City Hall, meeting the public and city officials through Zoom, but one issue – marijuana legalization – made a resident pull up a chair.  

Al Brannen criticized the city administration’s response to the new state law, which legalizes cannabis possession, up to six ounces, for those over 21. 

“What is Wildwood doing? I understand you guys are looking the other way,” Brannen said.  

“We never said that. What we’re saying is we don’t have enough information from the state yet to make a determination,” Mayor Peter Byron responded. 

“Right now, we are reviewing it,” added Commissioner Steve Mikulski, who oversees public safety 

Brannen, who is a former city mayor and Wildwood Historical Society board member emeritus, cited other municipalities that acted, pointing to ordinances in Ocean City, Wildwood Crest, Cape May and North Wildwood prohibiting smoking in public areas or banning sales. He advocated for similar legislation in Wildwood. 

“Two of the four of them don’t even have alcohol in their towns,” responded Byron. 

While the agenda for Wildwood’s public meeting contained no reference to marijuana and commissioners didn’t take action related to it, it was the subject of all the public comment.  

“There was almost two to one, that voted, in the City of Wildwood, for marijuana. You may not have voted for it, but maybe your neighbor did. We have an obligation, based on that referendum, to take a look at this. We don’t know what the end of the day is going to be, but we’re not going to do it just knee-jerk. We have got to really gather our information,” Byron told Brannen.  

Ed Grimes, an advocate for medical cannabis patients with disabilities, joined the Zoom meeting and said a facility in Wildwood that sells marijuana would be a big step, but is requesting even more allowances from the state.  

Grimes said he is also in favor of legislation permitting people to grow their own pot plants because of cannabis’s prohibitive cost 

“It’s very hard to even get out of the house. It’s a big project to get into a car,” Grimes said, of people in wheelchairs. “To go to a dispensary, it’s an extra cost. We’re getting hit from all sides. Our medicine isn’t covered by insurance.” 

Hugh Giordano, a representative from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 152, recommended commissioners tour Garden State Dispensary, a facility represented by his union, and the first medical dispensary to unionize in the state, he said. 

“You can see for yourself, from seed to sale, what the process is, and then you can decide is this really a viable decision for the City of Wildwood. Everybody’s going to have opinions, but I think the city administration wants to have the facts,” Giordano said, on Zoom. 

He told commissioners that bringing a dispensary into town would bring a college-educated workforce, with good-paying union jobs. 

“At least allow medical,” Girodano said. “The majority of people who use medical cannabis are 50 and above. It’s not a young person, stoner movie. This is real life.” 

Taylor Henry told commissioners it is something the city should look into. 

“One-hundred years ago, alcohol was illegal, during prohibition. We have alcohol in Wildwood. Does that make it a non-family-oriented destination? I wouldn’t say so,” Henry said, on Zoom. 

City Clerk Chris Wood offered Police Chief Robert Regalbuto an opportunity to comment. He was previously critical of the legislation (https://bit.ly/3ckPks1). 

“I will continue to seek and gather additional information, and I will report to the commissioners at a future date,” was all Regalbuto, joining by Zoom, offered. 

Brannen pressed commissioners on the timeline, reminding them that under the new state legislation, municipalities only have 180 days to pass regulations on the industry. 

“We won’t allow that to expire,” Byron said. “We’re absolutely looking at it. We do know the time constraints of the 180 days.” 

To contact Shay Roddy, email sroddy@cmcherald.com. 

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