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With three of Staten Island's four bridges connected to New Jersey, it is safe to assume that if marijuana is legalized for recreational use in the Garden State, the impact will be felt here as well. With three of Staten Island's four bridges connected to New Jersey, it is safe to assume that if marijuana is legalized for recreational use in the Garden State, the impact will be felt here as well.

The council is scheduled for a public hearing at its 6 p.m. meeting Tuesday at Town Hall, which could be followed by a vote on second reading of an ordinance that would, "establish prohibitions on the sale, dispensation, and cultivation of marijuana in the Township of Toms River."

The measure was approved 6-0 with one abstention when introduced on first reading Jan. 23.

The sponsor of the measure, Council President George Whittmann, said it was not an attempt to ban possession or use of marijuana, a prohibition Toms River would not have the authority to impose if a legalization bill were approved by the legislature and signed by the state's new Democratic governor, who has pledged to do just that.

Rather, Whittmann said, the ordinance is an effort to minimize marijuana's availability in the township, where the year-round population of more than 91,000 triples during summer and local police already have their hands full dealing with other tourist-related excesses.

"It's intended to keep you from opening a shop," said Whittmann.

Whittann, a Republican, said the ordinance had been drafted by the township attorney, R. Gary Mundy, to avoid any conflict with existing or state law, including the possible legalization of marijuana for recreational use. He said it was modeled after similar measures adopted by Point Pleasant Beach and Berkeley Township, other Ocean County shore towns with similar concerns. 

Ocean County is becoming a hotbed of resistance to legalization of recreational marijuana. Last week, the Board of Freeholders approved a non-binding resolution opposing the legalization, after their Monmouth County counterparts approved a similar measure in January.

Asbury Park is one shore town to embrace recreational marijuana sales, joining Jersey City in declaring themselves open for pot business if legalization occurs.

On Feb. 21, the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office and county Health Department will co-sponsor a conference on legalization at Eagle Ridge Country Club in Lakewood.

Toms River Councilman Maurice Hill, a dentist and retired rear admiral in the Navy Reserves, said he planned to attend the conference along with Councilwoman Laurie Huryk, who is a nurse and the one council member who abstained from last month's vote.

Hill, a Republican, voted in favor of the ordinance, but he said he would suggest tabling it Tuesday night until after the conference. Huryk, a Democrat, did not respond to a request for comment.

Hill made clear that he does not oppose medical marijuana, and that his opposition to its recreational use is also largely health-related.

"You're introducing a foreign substance into your lungs," said Hill, who said he also frowns on cigarette smoking.

The proposed Toms River ban on pot sales cuts across local party lines, and Huryk's two fellow Democrats voted with their four Republican colleagues to introduce the ordinance in January.

Likewise for the legalization proposal on the state level. Some Democratic lawmakers have resisted the governor's legalization drive, which Murphy and fellow proponents say would generate tax revenues, reduce police and court costs, and eliminate an injustice in which minorities are prosecuted for marijuana crimes at a higher rate than whites for comparable levels of use.

Whittman said he had "mixed feelings" about the broader legalization question.

Apparently, so does New Jersey. A recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University  found that 42 percent of respondents believed the state should legalize marijuana for recreational use.

Steve Strunsky may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @SteveStrunsky. Find on Facebook.