‘64.5% of Hawthorne Voters Supported Recreational Marijuana on November’s Ballot, Sadly Outgoing Mayor and Town Council Consider Another Opt-Out Ordinance’

Letter To The Editor
 For Immediate Release


At the Hawthorne Town Council meeting on April 7th, our borough attorney Michael P. Pasquale updated the Administration, council and those of us on the call, about the status of marijuana legalization at 52:29 minutes into the meeting. What stood out to me was the discussion once again to pass another opt-out ordinance in relation to marijuana in our town.
This is being proposed by outgoing Mayor Goldberg and the currently elected council. According to Pasquale, “The Mayor is asking me to present to the council what is called an opt-out ordinance. Which says we are not asking for any recreational, cultivation, distribution, warehousing or sale of marijuana in the Borough of Hawthorne. It’s not that there is such great opposition to people doing what they want on their time. The question is do we want to have a center that is a distribution center in our community. With only 3.4 square miles it is very difficult to know where that possibly could be where it doesn’t involve kids say walking home from school. Kids on Wagaraw Road at the pool. Kids on Goffle Road at various locations. There is just no great places in such a small town to locate such a facility. So again in the Borough of Hawthorne the position of the Administration is we do not oppose medical marijuana for those that are in need of that but we are not going to recommend that the licenses be permitted. That will be presented to the ordinance committee at its May meeting.”     
Hasn’t the Administration, Mayor and Town Council learned from their 2018 pre-emptive opt-out ordinance as covered in TapInto Hawthorne? Haven’t they read the 2020 results of ballot question #1 in the state, county and in their own municipality? Have they been staying up on all the information, potential jobs, revenue and legislation that was passed since November? Apparently, not.
That is why I had to speak up beginning at the 1:49:00 mark into the meeting on this issue. First, I had to mention the number of Hawthorne voters that voted overall on question #1 10,937. Of the more than 10 thousand voters, 7,049 were in support while 3,888 were against, which led to 64.5% of Hawthorne voters supporting recreational marijuana.
If we opt out on all the licenses, it will take a lot of work to overturn the ordinances and, potentially, cost our town revenue — since we can apply a 2% tax on every transaction. I’m not advocating for cultivators, manufacturers, distributors or wholesalers here. I’m simply focusing on the retail dispensary option for our town. 
Second, I mention the revenue that Paterson has started to receive that more than doubled the monthly projections its city officials saw in $25,000 per month. That potential could be $300,000 dollars per year and $1.5 million over the five year window allowed before having to decide on new ordinances. Even if the return is at the minimum estimate, most towns and cities project that is still approximately $10,000 per month, $120,000 per year and $600,000 over the five-year period. 
Third, I mention that opting out without the proper research and work to find possible sites is hasty and short-sighted. Other towns such as Garfield are taking the proactive steps now to try to assess where a dispensary could go. It’s not just Garfield as Upper Saddle River, North Haledon, Oakland, Chatham, Clifton and Elmwood Park also are being proactive. 
Our Administration ought to work now on a possible solution while there is still time before the August deadline. It’s what I call the “where and the how,” instead of falling back on the size of our town and an abrupt and automatic no. There are safe spots now with available retail space outside the 1,000 foot distance of a school, the pool or a church. These are locations on Wagaraw and Goffle roads. 
These dispensaries are not rickety or run down buildings. Most are upscale, modern and are boutiques. Paramus has a newer location, whose entrance is at the back of the building. Neptune just opened its dispensary in a newly remodeled, former Smashburger. I mention a commercial location on Goffle Road, close to the Bergen County border, which would have a discreet entrance at the rear of the building. This would keep parking in the back, as well. We would generate new local jobs and appeal to many people due to its proximity to Route 208. 
During my last comments, neither Mayor Goldberg nor the Town Council offered any comments or discussion on the reasons I provided. While I understand Council President Matthews saying, “It’s the Administration that would be looking at locations;” and our Borough Attorney Pasquale saying, “It’s a work in progress.” It seems to me that this is the time to know everyone’s stance and the Administration should be tasked with the necessary legwork before drafting the ordinance. 
While we know that Councilman Bruce Bennett voted against the town ordinance in 2018, everyone else still on the council voted in support of the pre-emptive ban, except Councilwoman Laiosa and Councilman Sciarra, who were elected afterward. This does include both 2021 mayoral candidates Republican nominee John Lane and Democratic nominee Joseph Wojtecki. Our town deserves to know where they stand on recreational marijuana in 2021 and whether they intend to support another opt-out or are willing to work on a possible solution. Councilman Dominic Mele and Bennett are up for re-election. Where do they stand on the points I’ve made public? 
The Mayor of Montvale admits this is a hard decision and plans to hold a Town Hall in his municipality. The people of Hawthorne have spoken in the form of their vote last November. The 64.5% supporting recreational marijuana, those who didn’t vote and any who aren’t aware of the progress on the issue, all deserve, at the least, a town hall on the topic. Mayor Goldberg needs to listen to the will of the people and make this happen. 

Craig Cayetano represents Hawthorne as the Green Party Candidate for Town Council or for Mayor in 2021 General Election.