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Medical marijuana discussed by citizens to the Shrewsbury council

Responding to an approved October 2017 ordinance, the Borough of Shrewsbury Council listened to citizens voice their support toward medical marijuana facilities.

Mayor Donald Burden said that in the spring of 2017, there was an attempt to open an electronic cigarette shop next to one of the borough’s schools.

“Accordingly, the council felt it was necessary to review those business uses which are prohibited in the borough, and if necessary, make appropriate changes to the zoning ordinance,” Burden said. “After reviewing the prohibited uses in Shrewsbury, and with consultation of our professionals, it was determined that in order to protect the health, well-being, safety and character of our small town, it was necessary to enhance the prohibited uses set forth in our zoning ordinance.”

The council adopted the ordinance on Oct. 3 during its regular meeting at the municipal building.

“The council unanimously amended our zoning ordinance to add electronic smoking devices/vapor products shops; body art establishments; pawn shops; sale of firearms, explosives or ammunitions; and alternative treatment centers to the list of prohibited uses in Shrewsbury,” Burden said.

The approved ordinance prohibits establishments in any zone in the borough that includes: alternative treatment centers; body arts procedure establishments; pawn shops or pawn broker establishments; stores and shops primarily engaging in the retail sale or service of electronic smoking devices, liquid nicotine or vapor products; the sale or retail trade of firearms, explosives or ammunitions, whether conducted in retail establishments or through home businesses, according to the Oct. 3 council agenda.

Alternative treatment center means any commercial establishment engaged in the cultivation and/or distribution of medical marijuana, including cannabis derived oils, tinctures and lotions and related paraphernalia, according to the council agenda.

“I have no issue with patients using medical marijuana provided [it] is prescribed and monitored by a medical professional. Our amendment to the zoning ordinance is not a referendum on whether medical marijuana should or should not be legal. Instead, it addresses what the council believes is necessary to protect the health, safety and well-being of our residents,” Burden said.

In response to the council’s adopted ordinance, citizens voiced their support toward medical marijuana and their disapproval of the ordinance on Jan. 2 during the council’s semi-monthly meeting at the municipal building.

East Hanover resident Edward “Lefty” Grimes said that he was on OxyContin for 10 years, as well as oxycodone, until he got into a medical cannabis program. Today, he no longer takes any pills and only uses cannabis.

“I am speaking for people who can not be here right now. There are people in bed right now with cancer, with epilepsy, with drop seizures, that are home right now that can’t be here, so I am speaking for them,” Grimes said. “They are tired of the ignorance in New Jersey. Your parents lied to you about cannabis. It’s not their fault they were lied to. The government lied to your parents and therefore, they lied to you. That is why you have ‘Reefer Madness’ in this town.”

According to Grimes, the former commissioner of the Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger, said horrible things to Congress about marijuana linking cannabis usage to communism, interracial relations, crime and increase in violence.

“That is last century’s thinking. We no longer think that way in this country. You are on the wrong side of history, and you are banning something that we need [and] we need more of that. We don’t need OxyContin and fentanyl, which you have in this town…people have killed themselves on OxyContin and fentanyl,” Grimes said. “You are not going to ban medical marijuana in this town, you are just going to make patients’ lives harder. Patients need less hoops to jump through, not more hoops like you are giving them.”

Minorities for Medical Marijuana’s New Jersey Chapter President and Trenton resident Leo Bridgewater said that currently 22 veterans commit suicide per day nationwide and half of that number are Vietnam veterans.

Bridgewater said in New Jersey, five veterans per week attempt suicide and that he has lost three friends to suicide.

“You are also standing in the midst of a very serious opioid abuse and addiction epidemic,” Bridgewater said. “Now, states that have comprehension medical marijuana programs, the numbers are coming back, and we are starting to see a significant reduction in the number of opioid abuse and addiction instances. But what they were not prepared for was what doctors had to say about it, which is that they are having to write less and less scripts.”

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 152 (UFCW) Union Representative Hugh Giordano said that the UFCW currently has 1.2 million members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

According to Giordano, the UFCW is a large union that represents cannabis workers around the country who use cannabis for recreational and medical uses.

“Our members are out here, and we know that they have the conditions under the medical marijuana program. Making our members having to drive to another township to get their medicine is an issue,” Giordano said.

Giordano said that the UFCW is committed on a national level to stand with councils that stand with patients and with cannabis workers.

“We will not sit back and allow patients and workers to not be treated with respect. Cannabis is here to stay, cannabis is a growing industry and cannabis can provide good wages and benefits along with retirement for folks in the industry. And by banning it, you are not creating jobs — you are creating a lower economy,” Giordano said.

For more information, visit www.shrewsburyboro.com/council-c1oyf.

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.

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