After legalization, municipalities in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are deciding whether to permit cannabis businesses to open.
Recreational adult use of marijuana is now the law of the land in one of the most crowded corners of the country.
Since February, the drug has become legal in five neighboring Northeast states, a densely populated region that is expected to quickly become the nation’s second-largest cannabis marketplace, generating as much as $8.7 billion annually within five years.
But first, mayors and municipal leaders in three East Coast states that legalized cannabis this year — New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — are wrestling with choices freighted with political and financial implications: Should they permit cannabis companies to operate in their towns?
State officials, aware that buy-in from municipalities is essential to the success of the market, are watching closely.
Dozens of municipalities have already made clear they want no part in the growing industry, at least for now. When opting out, politicians cite the legal and practical challenges surrounding the detection of drug-impaired driving; the risk of increasing teenage access to a drug still considered by many to be a pathway to addictive narcotics; and the still-incomplete state regulations.
“Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right,” said Kenneth L. Simmons, the president of the school board in Paterson, N.J., who opposes a proposal to permit cannabis start-ups in a city where one in four people lives in poverty.
“A revenue stream for City Hall,” he added, “is not prosperity, especially when it brings another possible pitfall closer to our youth.”
About 65 percent of residents in Point Pleasant Beach supported a November ballot question authorizing legalization in New Jersey. Yet Point Pleasant Beach, a Jersey Shore town known for its wide beaches and lively boardwalk, has decided against permitting cannabis businesses from operating — with the