Paramus mayor battles with Borough Council over allowing legal marijuana sales

The mayor of a Bergen County town says that he is tired of only other municipalities reaping the benefits of New Jersey’s legal marijuana industry. But for now, the Borough Council wants to hold off.
“Once you get past the argument of whether it should be legal, you should embrace it,” says Paramus Mayor Rich LaBarbiera.
The mayor says that he is confident that his town will benefit from the legal cannabis industry for many reasons, and not just the tax revenue it can bring in.
“Two percent on a $50 million facility would bring a million dollars here to the borough,” LaBarbiera says.
He also says that Paramus is prime real estate for legal marijuana and that his residents want it.
“Paramus is the retail capital of, not just the area, but the tri-state area, if not the country. If people sell stuff, they come here to Paramus,” the mayor says. “In addition to that, our voters spoke loudly – 60% of them voted in favor of it.”
Rise Dispensary, located off Route 4 in Paramus, is selling medical cannabis in town. LaBarbiera says that this and similar locations on the retail corridor would be perfect for adult-use recreational marijuana. He says there is plenty of parking and it is away from residential areas.
There is a dispensary in Rochelle Park located less than a half-mile from the Paramus border that is selling recreational marijuana.
But the mayor must first battle the members of the Paramus Borough Council, which has unanimously opted out of selling recreational marijuana in town.
Some members are against any sales, while others are taking a wait-and-see approach to see how other towns fare.
In a statement, Council Member Maria Elena Bellinger acknowledges that other towns "have generated needed revenue without quality of life or safety issues popping up for residents.” She also says, “While I personally have some concerns, I am also open to further discussion. Ultimately, it's about what is in the best interest of Paramus and I feel that getting more data will only help us come to the right solution."
But LaBarbiera, who is not running for another term this year, says that allowing legal marijuana sales now is the only solution. He says that waiting is only costing taxpayers.
News 12 has reached out to other members of the Borough Council for comment but did not hear back.