Atlantic City Looks To Weed to Spark Up Economy

Source: Press Of Atlantic City

In the late 1970s, Atlantic City looked to legalized gambling to revive its fortunes. Gaming now brings hundreds of millions of dollars into the city each month, with revenue on an upswing after a slump. The casino industry reported a gross operating profit of $767 million last year. Still, a significant portion of residents live below the poverty line, and by several other measures, residents continue to struggle.

The city is looking to cannabis, now legal, taxed and licensed in New Jersey, as a new lifeline for the local economy.The city Planning Board endorsed a proposal to create a Green Zone Redevelopment Plan, which would declare a wide swath of the city ready for cannabis-related businesses.

The proposed zone, which must still go before City Council, runs from Boston Avenue to Maryland Avenue, including both sides of Atlantic and Pacific avenues. It also includes the Orange Loop district running from Pacific Avenue to just shy of the Boardwalk between New York and Tennessee avenues, where developers have sought to revitalize the area with tourist-friendly attractions.

Under the proposal, cannabis would be one of those attractions. The plan calls for design standards for cannabis businesses and would allow for retail sales, growing operations, manufacturing and wholesale businesses.

“The purpose of the Green Zone Redevelopment Plan is to create additional incentives for private investment and tourism in Atlantic City with the introduction of recreational cannabis, and to support the revitalization, economic diversification, and the investment of private capital in the city’s main commercial and tourism corridors,” reads the introduction of the plan voted on last week.

The board’s vote states that the plan conforms to the city’s approved master plan and clears the way for council action. Council is set for a public hearing and final vote to create the zone at its Sept. 21 meeting, 5 p.m. at 1301 Bacharach Blvd.

The vote was almost unanimous. Planning Board member Evan Sanchez said he supports the idea but owns property within the zone and is likely to become the landlord of a cannabis business. He followed the advice of board attorney Joel Fleishman and abstained. All members other members voted yes.

Shabazz has been a cannabis skeptic on council and has opposed some proposed locations for cannabis businesses. He said after the meeting that his primary objection has been to locating the businesses in residential areas.

He said he has been strongly in favor of medical marijuana but less sure about its recreational use. Howeve, the potential for economic development and new jobs for Atlantic City residents is too great to ignore.

“I realize recreational cannabis is legal whether I agree with it or not,” Shabazz said.

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