Marijuana dispensaries spark controversy in Paterson

PATERSON, New Jersey (WABC) -- A fierce debate took place in Paterson on whether to allow marijuana businesses to operate in the city.

Emotions flared at Paterson City Hall as residents made their plea both for and against marijuana retail stores.

"We do know it's a gateway drug, we have lost many of our students, we've had many issues with our students with this situation," Paterson Board of Education member Corey Teague said.

Paterson lawmakers are considering a plan that would permit six retail marijuana businesses in the city.

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The plan would also allow as many as 30 other cannabis-related businesses in Paterson. The city would be able to impose a 2% sales taxes.

"I think there are many pros, it's businesses coming to Paterson. I think all Paterson residents are going to benefit from it," said Drew Hoilett of Rise Marijuana Dispensary.

According to the New Jersey League of Municipalities, an estimated one-in-four municipalities have opted out of recreational licenses.

With an August 21 deadline to either prohibit or limit the number of marijuana establishments, some lawmakers would rather not be rushed into making a decision and want to take a wait and see approach.

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"My concern is where is it going to be? Where is the map, where is the zoning -- the laws and regulations that we have to put in place to protect our children, all of that has to be a part of the discussion and has to be taken into consideration," Paterson City Councilmember Alex Mendez said.

The next vote is expected to take place August 4. If it passes, it'll be enacted 45 days later.


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