By Maddy Vitale
City Council took a strong stance Thursday night to preserve the community’s family-friendly atmosphere.
To go with its ban on alcohol sales since the 1800s, the city is also prohibiting the sale of marijuana, keeping with its slogan “America’s Greatest Family Resort.”
In a unanimous vote, Council adopted an ordinance prohibiting marijuana facilities within one-quarter mile of a school, church, recreational or sports facility, the Boardwalk and any residential area. It would effectively outlaw businesses from selling marijuana or pot paraphernalia in all parts of town.
Council President Peter Madden said after the meeting that the ordinance just makes sense for Ocean City.
“I think it is a matter of what Ocean City is all about,” Madden said. “You can’t buy a drink in this town, why would you be able to buy marijuana? This ordinance is the right move for our town.”
Ocean City is following other towns that have already passed local laws banning marijuana sales in anticipation of the state Legislature and Gov. Phil Murphy legalizing the recreational use of pot. Murphy made it a campaign promise to make recreational pot smoking legal, but the Legislature has not yet been able to agree on a bill.
At a prior Council meeting, City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson explained to the Council that by banning cannabis sales, the city also bows out of receiving revenue from a tax on marijuana dispensaries.
She also advised the Council that they could legislate with an ordinance their stance against the legalization of marijuana. On Jan. 10, Council voted to introduce the ordinance 7-0. Thursday night’s vote gave the ordinance Council’s final approval.
Mayor Jay Gillian said of the vote to prohibit marijuana sales, “This is a continuation of what Ocean City is all about. I believe in medical marijuana,. I’m for that, but recreational use – no way.”
City Clerk Melissa Rasner explained that since the ordinance involves land use law, the measure would need to go to the county’s Planning Board for its approval.
After that time, she said the ordinance would go into effect within 20 days.
Founded in 1879 as a Christian resort by a group of Methodist ministers, Ocean City has always been a “dry” town” with its ban on alcohol. It is one of the hallmarks of the safe and family-oriented image of the community.
The Council members said keeping with what makes Ocean City such a special place to live and raise a family is exactly why the ordinance is needed.
“I’m all for it,” Councilman Bob Barr said of the ordinance.
Barr has adamantly opposed the legalization of marijuana, saying it has the potential to be a gateway to other drugs.
Councilman Michael DeVlieger echoed Barr’s sentiments while stating his support for the ordinance. DeVlieger added that it is sad that the matter should have ever had to be contemplated.