TOMS RIVER — The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders have come out against any plans to legalize recreational marijuana.

The board on Wednesday called on Gov. Phil Murphy and the state Legislature to not follow through on his campaign promise. It followed a similar action taken by the Monmouth County freeholders, and both come before any legalization bills have been taken up in Trenton.

In a recording of the meeting published by the Asbury Park Press, Ocean County Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little compared marijuana, a federal Schedule 1 drug, to cocaine, a Schedule 2 drug.

"As an example, cocaine is a ‘Schedule 2 drug,’ which is less addictive,” Little said.

The federal scheduling system identifies Schedule 1 drugs as those with "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse." Other examples include heroin and LSD. Schedule 2 drugs also have a high potential abuse, but are considered to have some potential medical applications. Those include cocaine and methamphetamine, but also prescription drugs like Adderall and Ritalin.

Marijuana advocates argued the scheduling system is out of date and subject to political pressure, and that marijuana is misclasified.

Ocean County Administrator Carl Block told the Townsquare News Network the freeholders passed the resolution unanimously. He said they believe legalizing recreational marijuana would pose a problem for law enforcement.

Block also said in a county where the opioid epidemic has hit the hardest, the freeholders view marijuana as a gateway drug to other more dangerous substances. He said it was "counter-intuitive" to legalize the drug that could only worsen an already alarming problem in the county.

Studies are mixed on whether marijuana use leads to other drug use, and advocates dispute the "gateway" designation as a relic of the war on drugs.

As part of his campaign for governor, Murphy said the legalization of recreational marijuana would bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue. Block said the freeholders do not believe that was enough of a reason to legalize something that the federal government still considers illegal.

"We should not be doing legalization for monetization," Block said. "Medical marijuana wasn't about the money; it was about relieving the pain and suffering of certain patients."

Monmouth County passed its resolution last month at a time when municipalities are trying to figure out how they would approach the marijuana issue if it ever is legalized. Last month, Old Bridge started a discussion on whether to ban the sale of legalized marijuana, while similar discussions have been held in Toms River.

Point Pleasant Beach adopted an ordinance banning the sale in the borough.

Mayor Stephen Reid said his town passed the ordinance in an effort to "get ahead of the curve."

Nevertheless, other towns have come out in favor of legalization, including Asbury Park. The Asbury Park Press reported last month that the majority of that city's governing body would be in favor of marijuana dispensaries.

Mayor John Moor told the Press that he would have "no problem with medical or recreational marijuana, as long as it's legally dispensed and taxed."

Block said that while the Ocean County resolution does not carry any legal weight, the freeholders believed it was important for them to share their views opposing legalization should it come up for a vote in Trenton.

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