Mayor’s Column: Shamong may be the “ideal” municipality for production of marijuana

Mayor Michael Di Croce discusses the potential profit marijuana production could bring to Shamong.

You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one…

Imagine: What if we could create 100 new jobs in Shamong, drastically cut property taxes, increase home values, help fund our schools and build a new community center complete with Olympic-size pool?

Imagine: What if we could do all this while protecting our children, air and water, supporting our farmers and keeping the sleepy, pristine Pinelands feel of our hometown unchanged?

The previously restrictive N.J. medical marijuana law was recently changed so that its use is now approved for pain or anxiety, leading to many new applications.

N.J. State Democrats have just introduced a bill in the state Senate to legalize the use of marijuana for pleasure.

Governor Murphy has come out in support and has been “pushing” this idea as a way to help balance our out-of-whack budget deficits.

Nine other states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington) have already legalized recreational use and are using the newly generated taxes to fund everything from education to reducing property taxes.

So, state legalization is coming.

There is an increased demand for new growing facilities.

Shamong may be the “ideal” municipality for production and possibly warehousing.

Do you think Shamong should take action to encourage farm activity and allow cannabis and hemp growing as a permitted farmland activity?

A good farmer might find a crop where they can make a $20,000 profit on an acre of land. There are no crops or products, where a one acre plot of farm land can bring in $1.6 million in one year — almost all of it profit. No fruit, vegetable, corn, or tomato can provide such a massive profit, except for one — marijuana.

The chance to grow would provide an opportunity for our farmers to raise this crop, but only if they wanted to. Maybe something along the lines of “50 percent of an active farm in Shamong may be permitted to grow cannabis so long as the remaining 50 percent of the farm is planted with fruits and vegetables native to South Jersey.” So, we’d still get awesome jersey corn and tomatoes and we encourage the full use of all of our farms.

No matter how you feel (those over age 70 “no way,” between 40–69 “why not,” under 40 “about time”), do you think we should position our town and residents to financially benefit from this opportunity? We can do this without actually promoting usage. After all, it’s our job as parents, schools, churches and citizens to teach our children not to drink, smoke or engage in behaviors which could cause harm to one’s body.

In addition to calling for the state to share a portion of the taxes collected in a “Local Government Fund,” what if Shamong imposed a license fee for every business seeking to operate here? These funds would be used to lower our taxes, hire new non-governmental local workers, fund our schools and build our community center.

I am not expressing any views of anyone on our township committee, nor am I addressing the very important and serious issues of impaired driving, social ramifications of use or those previously convicted of cannabis-related crimes, all needing discussion and thought.

Imagine: increased personal liberty and personal responsibility, redirecting law enforcement to real crime prevention, creating new jobs, reducing property taxes, creating a stream of income from underutilized farms, repurposing existing vacant commercial property and becoming the “pot growing capital of NJ”.

Your suggestions and ideas are most welcome at mikedicroceshamong@comcast.net.

Imagine, it’s easy if you try.