By DAN ULLOA

Advocates recently went to an Old Bridge Town Council meeting to urge the council to reverse their decision made last year to ban a medical marijuana dispensary within municipal boundaries.

The Council initially looked indifferent as activists plead their case citing the need to alleviate the difficulty sickly patients have in traveling to other towns to secure medical marijuana they often need to merely function.

“We’re not going to make Sodom and Gomorrah in the streets,” said Aubrey Navarro-Conway regarding a dispensary in town. Navarro-Conway has been a patient advocate across the state for five years since becoming a patient herself and getting off the 11 medications she was on to treat her severe illness. She was especially vocal in advocating for the Jake Honig Act which passed earlier this year which expanded New Jersey’s medical marijuana program.  

While a resident of nearby Sayreville, Navarro-Conway, a mother of three, said she attends church in Old Bridge and previously worked there as well.

“It was heart-breaking to me,” said Navarro-Conway regarding Old Bridge’s ban.

Getting the Facts Straight

Navarro-Conway also noted the town had literature on display that says cannabis leads to opiate addiction when in fact the State of New Jersey has recognized cannabis as an effective way to treat opioid addiction.

Mike Vintzileos shared his story of how he was able to get off opiates with the help of medical cannabis and has been free of heroin for many months after years of struggling with addiction. He then criticized the anti-cannabis brochure that was available in the lobby of Old Bridge’s town hall as well.

“This is complete trash. There’s no sources here. How you could have a pamphlet in the lobby there with no sources and just random numbers, everything from marijuana is the most major causes of ER visits. And it even says you’re even more prone to wrinkles. From what, smiling? From giggling?” said Vintzileos amidst laughter. “And I don’t want to be rude. I didn’t come here to be rude, but this belongs in the garbage. At the very least, let’s get rid of these pamphlets please.”

Councilman John Murphy III noted that he has been using CBD for pain and that it had been quite helpful. 

“It’s amazing how almost everyone knows someone with a card that’s helping them,” said Navarro-Conway regarding the great growth of the medical marijuana program in New Jersey which has subsequently made it even more popular.

At the beginning of 2018, only 17,000 patients were in the program eight years after it was signed into law. It has now reached well over 50,000 patients.

Councilman Dave Merwin said that he thought the ordinance that had been passed merely restrict the placement of dispensaries in terms of zoning. The township’s legal counsel explained that the council had indeed banned medical dispensaries last year. 

Merwin also did not seem to realize that medical marijuana cannot be sold in a pharmacy due to federal prohibition which is why separate medical dispensaries need to be established.

“I’m not against medical marijuana. I’ve seen the benefits of medical marijuana,” Merwin later said. He clarified that he was against adult-use.

Navarro-Conway speculated that the council banned a medical marijuana dispensary within city limits in anticipation of adult-use passage on the state level, conflating it with adult-use.

How the initial ban passed makes one wonder.

She said that after the council meeting, she spoke to a member of the council who said after hearing the testimony was open to revising the ordinance and that it was quite possible they would.

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