In February, the Hazlet Township town council quietly passed an ordinance (pgs 13-14) banning cannabis from being sold in the town for either medical or recreational adult-use. The ordinance was adopted in response to the expectation that Governor Murphy will sign a bill legalizing cannabis statewide for adult-use.
On Tuesday May 1, numerous medical marijuana advocates from throughout the state, including a Hazlet resident, attended the scheduled township meeting and spoke against the adoption of the ordinance for approximately 45 minutes.
Charles Kwiatkowski, resident of Hazlet for 18 years and currently living with multiple sclerosis, shared his thoughts on the need for cannabis dispensaries in town. More importantly though, he stressed the need for patients to be able to provide home cultivation of medical cannabis “The prices at the dispensaries are already so high. I can not afford the prices at the dispensary, and there should be home cultivation for patients.” Medical marijuana is not covered by insurance like most other approved medicines.
Mayor Scott Aagre said, “The problem with home cultivation is there is no way to control it.” The allowance of home cultivation will be dependent on if it is allowed in any bill. While some of the proposed bills do have provisions for home cultivation, others do not.
Ed Grimes, resident of East Hanover, and a statewide cannabis advocacy leader, became very heated during the allotted time for speaking. “You are hurting disabled war vets; children with cancer, people with epilepsy,” Grimes exclaimed. “Why don’t you support [your medical patients]? How are you not allowing medicine in this town. You allow oxycontin, fentanyl and booze and tobacco, but no cannabis! Are you kidding me?”
Jeff Oakes, resident of Oceanport, shared his compelling and moving story for over 12 minutes while highlighting his experience using cannabis for relief from chemotherapy. Oakes was diagnosed with cancer 2 years ago and was told he would have a short time to live. However, he has used cannabis during this time and has exceeded his physician’s expectations. “I’m on my 29th treatment of chemo tomorrow. The only way I can function is by [medical marijuana].”
Numerous advocates addressed the council, including a former drug and alcohol counselor, a patient advocate, and other residents from around New Jersey. The group is part of a movement called the Ignorance is No Excuse Tour that visits police stations and governing bodies throughout New Jersey and discusses, advocates, and aims to educate officials, hoping to help them understand the benefits, but also to see the ignorance and misinformation surrounding marijuana.
Mayor Aagre stated, “There is no room in Hazlet for [cannabis].” However, Hazlet has approximately 20 liquor licenses (pg 42), one which is a strip club, and numerous pharmacies giving out the very drugs they are admittedly afraid of – opiates. There are also vape stores, a smoke shop and cigar store in the 22,000 resident town.
Hazlet has fallen victim to the growing trend of vacant premises that result from the decline in retail sales throughout the country. There is no denying the town could benefit from new businesses in town. While it is likely that the town council conjures up images of gigantic dispensaries known as seed-to-sale operations, there is an expectation that the cannabis laws may allow for separate licenses, resulting in the ability to have small-scale dispensaries.
Throughout the state some towns and cities have passed ordinances banning cannabis, but the trend recently began shifting to towns amending the bans to allow for medical cannabis to be regulated and sold in their towns. Parsipanny-Troy Hills, and even more recently, Union City, passed or amended ordinances to allow medical marijuana in their respective towns. Additionally, Toms River and Jersey City are examples of towns that tabled their bills until more information is obtained, such as an actual bill that the Governor signs. Before such bill is introduced, towns are banning something that they do not even have information on yet.
In January, the Monmouth County freeholders passed a resolution encouraging other towns in the county to do ban cannabis. Some of these freeholders, similar to the freeholders in Ocean County, are acting with false information driving their decision making. In Ocean County, freeholder Gerry Little stated, “Marijuana is more dangerous than cocaine” because it is labeled as a schedule I drug by the federal government.
Monmouth County freeholders also shared their concerns while stating their reasons for not wanting to support changing the current NJ laws on cannabis. Freeholder Director Tom Arnone said the plan is, “Unclear on everything. They have no answers.”
Freeholder Pat Impreveduto said, “It’s absurd and it’s heartbreaking. It’s astonishing to me we have to balance our budgets on the backs of residents, especially our children, on legalizing marijuana. We will not let this happen in Monmouth County.”
Hazlet’s Deputy Mayor Sue Kiley is one of the Monmouth County GOP freeholder nominees for the upcoming election season. It is interesting to think Hazlet came out so rapidly in support of the freeholders bill when she is a nominee for the county party.
By the conclusion of the meeting, a few patrol cars were sent, seemingly in response to Grimes’ passionate delivery during his public comments. There was no need to worry though and the police quickly left. The patients then safely medicated with their marijuana outside of town hall.
After hearing from the medical patients will Hazlet amend their bill to accommodate marijuana?
See the full video of the Ignorance Is No Excuse Tour by clicking the image below.