Stephen Reid is the mayor of Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. In December 2017, under Mayor Reid’s leadership, Point Pleasant became the first New Jersey city to preemptively ban any cannabis industry operations, should the state legalize them. The Point Pleasant Beach ban kicked off a statewide trend, leading to more than 10 percent of all New Jersey towns, representing nearly every county, passing resolutions restricting, banning or opposing cannabis industry operations and adult-use legalization.
Today, the total number of towns that have opted out has topped 60, and Mayor Reid continues to be a leading voice in the effort to oppose marijuana reform — in fact, he gets paid to do so. Thanks to the investigative efforts of blogger Patrick Duff, we now know that Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Stephen Reid is on the payroll of an influential anti-marijuana lobbying group.
Mayor of First New Jersey Town to Ban Weed Is on the Payroll of an Anti-Cannabis Lobby
In late November 2018, New Jersey lawmakers in both the Assembly and Senate voted to advance an adult-use bill, marking the first official legislative action on the issue since pro-legalization Gov. Phil Murphy assumed office in 2018. But since their 2016 takeover of the New Jersey legislature, Democrats have expanded qualifying conditions for medical cannabis treatments, licensed more dispensaries and centered criminal justice reform.
At the same time, opposition to the adult-use industry dug in, and a groundswell of anti-cannabis advocacy prompted a number of cities to opt out of any legal-weed future. Point Pleasant Beach mayor Stephen Reid has been at the heart of that movement. After making his city the first to ban the retail cannabis industry in late 2017, Reid has traveled around the state advising other towns to join Point Pleasant’s policy of prohibition.
But since at least May 2018, Reid has been pushing prohibition on the payroll of the prominent anti-marijuana lobby group New Jersey Responsible Approaches to Marijuana Policy. Now, that connection and its potential conflict of interest are the subject of a lawsuit filed against Point Pleasant Beach.
Mayor Reid isn’t just on NJ RAMP’s payroll. Since May 2018, he has been the group’s executive director. Blogger Patrick Duff revealed the connection after suing Point Pleasant Beach himself, to obtain records of Reid’s emails with the group. Reid has himself never been upfront about his connection with RAMP. In fact, he failed to properly register his lobbying activity on behalf of RAMP with the state until October, five months after taking the job.
Lawsuit Targets Point Pleasant Beach Mayor’s Connection with Anti-Cannabis Lobby
As mayor of Point Pleasant Beach, Stephen Reid banned the cannabis industry before he began receiving checks from NJ RAMP. But in his public statements about marijuana policy after May 2018, Reid has never fully disclosed he was receiving compensation from the anti-cannabis group.
And that compensation is substantial. Being mayor of Point Pleasant Beach pays just $6,500 annually. NJ RAMP has been paying Mayor Reid $3,000 monthly since May. Duff’s lawsuit against the city alleges Reid improperly mixed his work as RAMP executive director with his duties as mayor. Duff called the mayor’s undisclosed lobbying efforts “the ultimate misuse of office.”
Reid acknowledges that he didn’t properly register his lobbying activities with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. But he denies any conflict of interest. “I don’t see it as a conflict; I see it as a complement,” Reid told NJ.com. Reid then doubled down on his denial, accusing the marijuana industry of coming after him.
New Jersey law may be on Reid’s side. According to the director of the state’s election commission, Joseph Donohue, the agency has no specific laws preventing local government officials from working as lobbyists.