Into the weeds: Morristown council hears anti-vape, pro-pot pitches

Edward 'Lefty' Grimes asks Morristown council to allow medical marijuana dispensaries, April 9, 2019. Image: Town of Morristown
Edward 'Lefty' Grimes asks Morristown council to allow medical marijuana dispensaries, April 9, 2019. Image: Town of Morristown
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Nicotine and marijuana were in the air at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Figuratively, of course.

Citing potentially harmful levels of nicotine and other additives in e-cigarettes, Mayor Tim Dougherty said his administration will present an ordinance this month to restrict and license sales of the devices, also known as vapes.

Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty calls for local regulations of vape sales, April 9, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty calls for local regulations of vape sales, April 9, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

He proposes banning sales at gas stations and drug stores, and empowering the town’s health contractors to suspend licenses of approved establishments that sell vaping items to anyone under 21.

“This will place Morristown in the forefront as it relates to combating this epidemic,” said Dougherty, a former smoker who acknowledged the addictive nature of nicotine.

“I know, it takes a long time to break that habit. And it’s not easy,” he said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have declared the use of e-cigarettes “unsafe for kids, teens, and young adults.”  Nicotine is suspected of harming brain development of adolescents.

Dougherty said his proposed ordinance will follow best practices suggested by the federal Food and Drug Administration, and advice from the Public Health Law Center.

Neighboring Morris Township sparked controversy in January by introducing its own measure making it illegal for minors to possess vaping devices. Amidst public concerns that this would punish victims rather than purveyors of e-cigarettes, the Township Committee delayed a final vote until next month.

‘CANNABIS SAVES LIVES’

Several audience members implored Morristown’s council to allow dispensaries of medical marijuana in town.

'Cannabis saves lives,' according to Krystal Bennett, April 9, 2019. Image: Town of Morristown.
‘Cannabis saves lives,’ according to Krystal Bennett, April 9, 2019. Image: Town of Morristown.

“Cannabis saves lives,” said Krystal Bennett of Brick Township.

She lost a sister and a best friend to drug overdoses, and said she had been heading down the same path. Methadone helped turn her around, but it sapped her energy. Marijuana weaned her from methadone, she said.

“It makes you want to live life, not sleep, like methadone did,” Bennett said.

Mike Vintzileos of Point Pleasant said methadone rehab left him “a shell of a person,” too.

“Cannabis gave me my life back.”

East Hanover resident EdwardLefty” Grimes said he must drive to Cranbury or Woodbridge for the marijuana that has freed him from opioid painkillers after a series of spinal surgeries.

“I need something closer,” Grimes said, questioning a culture that stigmatizes medical marijuana and encourages use of addictive medications such as fentanyl and oxycontin. The former punk rocker crusades for medical marijuana at council meetings around the state, and in an online “potcast.”

New Jersey has six cannabis dispensaries. None are in Morris County.

“This is a medicine,” said Sanjay Chaudray, a Randolph resident who described himself as a horticultural specialist who has worked with autistic adults and children at a private special needs school in Livingston.

With cannabis poised to become a big industry, Chaudray said, he worries that only the most profitable strains of the 5,000 or so known “cultivars” will be produced–stifling research into strains that could treat rare medical conditions.

Mayor Tim Dougherty, left, with members of the Shade Tree Commission, April 9, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Mayor Tim Dougherty, left, with members of the Shade Tree Commission, April 9, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Councilman Robert Iannaccone, who leads a subcommittee exploring how the town’s zoning laws should address medical- and recreational marijuana, thanked the speakers and said their views would be considered.

In other business, the council voted 5-0 (Council President Toshiba Foster and Councilman Michael Elms were absent) to approve a three-year police contract, retroactive to 2018. Starting salary for an officer out of the county police academy is $31,603. Top pay is $105,933.

The council also approved a bicycle hill climb up Fort Nonsense. It’s a new addition to the Garden State Fondo (formerly known as the Gran Fondo NJ) scheduled for Sept. 7, 2019.

Rabbi Chaim Schapiro of the Rabbinical College of America addresses the Morristown Council, April 9, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Rabbi Chaim Schapiro of the Rabbinical College of America addresses the Morristown Council, April 9, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Resident Linda Carrington said she took offense at an ice cream truck playing Dixie, “an anthem of the Confederacy.”

Acting Police Chief Darnell Richardson knows the driver and will relay the resident’s concerns, said town Administrator Jillian Barrick.

Mayoral proclamations were presented to the town Shade Tree Commission, in advance of Arbor Day on April 26, and to the Morris Township-based Rabbinical College of America, ahead of Education and Sharing Day on April 16.

MORE ABOUT VAPING

After receiving a mayoral proclamation, members of the Rabbinical College of America pose with Morristown council members, April 9, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
After receiving a mayoral proclamation, members of the Rabbinical College of America pose with Morristown council members, April 9, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

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