LACEY – Officials recently approved an ordinance prohibiting the sale and dispensation of marijuana during a recent Township Committee meeting.
Resident Bill Stemmle, who is the Democrat’s candidate for township committee in the November 3 general election, opposed the ordinance and asked the all Republican governing body, “I’m curious when Lacey Republicans decided that capitalism wasn’t really a good idea anymore?”
Stemmle added, “what you are doing is taking a commodity that may be legal and telling people you are not allowed to buy it or sell it in this town. Your party has been complaining about government overreach for 50 years and that certainly seems to be overreach to me.”
“There does not appear to be a valid reason not to allow it to be bought and sold in town. I heard someone say it might attract a lot of people and I wasn’t aware attracting people to the township to buy stuff was a bad thing,” he added.
Stemmle said, “marijuana has never been proven to be dangerous. There hasn’t been a single case of anyone overdosing on marijuana. There does seem to be some factual evidence that you don’t want a small child to have it but that is for alcohol and nicotine as well – and yet we have stores that sell liquor in town and we can manage that.”
“The majority of marijuana users do not move on to harder drugs. There is an article in Psychology Today that suggested any marijuana users that do move on to harder drugs probably do so because marijuana is currently illegal and it makes them that much easier for them to break the law later on,” Stemmle said. He added that a racist element was involved in making marijuana illegal back in 1937.
Mayor Steven Kennis said “none of those reasons are why we chose to ban retail sales only. It was from a planning board recommendation as we have to rezone medical marijuana to put it in the business park so there was a recommendation from the planning board to make it agreeable to prohibit medical marijuana in the business park as long as retail sales were banned in town.”
The mayor said this was a preemptive measure if a ballot question on the state ballot passes in November. “We wanted to make sure we had some control if we were unhappy with any legislation coming out from the state that we feel we could change at a future date. We thought it was more prudent to ban it ahead of time just in case we were forced to do something we were uncomfortable with.”
The township’s attorney is Leonard Connors who also serves as a state senator. He said, “it is part and parcel with the ordinance that was previously adopted by the governing body which changed the zoning regulations in the N1 industrial zone to allow for the dispensation of medical marijuana.”
“I have cautioned the governing body that we don’t know what the regulations are going to be if and when recreational marijuana is adopted by virtue of people on the November ballot. It could be turned down in which case this ordinance would be moot. If it is approved the Cannabis Commission will develop rules and regulations which may in fact preempt the ability of a municipality to regulate marijuana within its borders. We don’t know yet,” Connors added.
Stemmle responded that as the township did not know what the final outcome would be that “this ordinance is unnecessary and should be held until we do know what we are talking about.”
Mayor Kennis said he believes marijuana should be decriminalized.
Deputy Mayor Peter Curatolo who works for the Ocean County Health Department said “when you talk to people in areas of the United States where recreational marijuana was made legal the first thing they will tell you…is that you don’t want it. It is an enforcement nightmare.”
“We are already in a situation where we are in an opium epidemic and I hear folks like you and those on the other side of the aisle who always minimize, saying it is like the addictive properties of caffeine. Tell me and the other people in this town why is this a good thing? Why is it good sound public health policy and sound public safety policy to have another intoxicant?” Curatolo said.
The deputy mayor noted that Lacey is a town of distinction when it comes to “the work we’ve done to keep young kids away from drugs and off of drugs. We have a robust Municipal Alliance in this town that we are proud of. We have police in our audience stepping out of traditional law enforcement roles going into our schools now and engaging as educators.”
Resident Ron Martin agreed with the committee who approved the ordinance unanimously. “You only have to look to Colorado who is raking in money but spending more money on police.”