Will weed ever be welcome in Jersey Shore towns? – The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Jersey Shore, famed for its premier family beach vacations, pioneering casinos, and globally renowned boardwalks, is facing a new question: Is it prepared for marijuana?

Locals will say cannabis has long been part of the Shore’s fabric, predating legalization. Chet Kennedy, 32, remembers growing up in Cape May, where young people found ways to smoke marijuana under boardwalks and behind closed doors, hidden from vacationers and police.

“Cannabis culture before legalization brought people together, it didn’t matter what walk of life you were from,” said Kennedy, who manages the Boarding House boutique hotel in Cape May. “It was a way to relax and get away from the stressors of life.”

Despite New Jersey nearing the billion-dollar mark in annual legal weed sales, with rapid growth surpassing neighboring states, much of the Jersey Shore remains hesitant. Despite the majority of Shore residents voting to legalize cannabis in 2020, local elected officials in southern New Jersey Shore towns fear the clash between marijuana’s stigma and the family-friendly image cultivated over decades.

Ocean City spokesperson Doug Bergen explained the city’s stance, citing its branding as “America’s Greatest Family Resort” and its unanimous city council decision to prohibit dispensaries. (Statewide legislation allowed municipalities to govern whether to

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