Anti Marijuana Ordinance Passes In Upper Freehold
With five "ayes" and no "nays" Upper Freehold Township unanimously passed it's ordinance prohibiting the town from considering any applications that violate Federal Law.
The move is a block to the construction of a medical marijuana farm as part of the state's medical marijuana growing program.
Though approved in New Jersey for medical use, marijuana is still considered illegal by the federal government, which still puts state run cultivation sites and dispensaries in legal jeopardy.
Thursday evening's committee meeting, which was held at the Stone Bridge Middle School in neighboring Allentown, hosted close to a hundred residents almost all of whom came out to speak in favor of the ordinance and against the farm in their community.
Close to thirty people spoke during the public hearing portion, echoing many of the same points throughout the night. Namely, the safety hazard a farm would present since Upper Freehold doesn't have it's own police department (it shares services from the State Police), the eyesore it would present, and the social danger of having a marijuana farm located within a mile of a school.
Several residents expressed fears of illicit drug use spreading throughout the town as a result of the farm and difficulty of steering children away from what many consider a "gateway drug". The sentiment from several residents was repeated throughout the night by people voicing their opinion, "no means no"
Only four speakers came out against the ordinance, one of who was Jon Fisher from Breakwater ATC, the medical dispensary that applied to set up a farm in town.
Elliot Wiesner was one of those against the ordinance and in favor of the farm. He thinks the vote was a "knee jerk reaction."
He notes that many of their fears are unfounded and overblown.
"I think they have visions of a hundred foot wall with bright lights looking like a prison.'
He felt that much of the concern people had is the stigma associated with the drug. He however feels the stigma isn't there.
"I personally don't think it turns everyone into heroine addicts or coke heads."
Fisher asked officials to reconsider the vote and instead "talk with us" hoping to continue discussions on the matter with the town.
Upper Freehold Mayor LoriSue Mount had strong words in response to Fisher's requests.
"What are we going to talk about? It is against Federal Law."
The entire committee voted without hesitation in favor of the ordinance, something Fisher expected to happen.
"We felt that the committee would vote five nothing and they did. We now have to go back and meet with our council and review what our options are. This is not the only town we're looking in, it's the only town we applied to."
The decision was a welcomed one to the jubilant crowd after the meeting. Upper Freehold resident Chris Martinez spoke out in favor of the ordinance and feels the vote goes with the wishes of many in the town.
"Breakwater hasn't told us why Upper Freehold, why can't it be somewhere else. So until they explain that I think this was the right decision."
In his speech to the committee Fisher said Breakwater would still consider the option of going to court if they tried to block them from building in town. However he said he would much rather talk further instead because "in court there are no winners, only losers."
After the vote was cast, Fisher noted that legal action is still on the table.
"I had communicated with the towns attorney and I told him that we would pursue our option, if we decided it would be a good idea to commence a lawsuit we would."
While a costly lawsuit is something many in town aim to avoid, Kim Lima said she and fellow supporters of the ordinance aren't scared. Noting that they are marathon runners, and telling Fisher if "If you want a marathon, we're ready."
A dispensary is still planning on being open in Manalapan.