Friday, November 18, 2011

ATC Meeting Rescheduled Due to Overcrowding reports that the medical marijuana meeting in Upper Freehold Township (UFT) scheduled for Thurs., 11/17/11 was canceled due to overcrowding. The crowd, both proponents and opponents, along with half a dozen state troopers and a slew of media, exceeded the 80-person capacity of the room.

The Township Committee, on the advice of its lawyer said the meeting would be rescheduled to the Tuesday before Thanksgiving at 7 PM, either at the local high school or the first aid squad building.

Breakwater Alternative Treatment Center has plans to locate its marijuana production facility on preserved farmland here. Concerns that neighbors voiced had to do with security and lower property values.

On the other hand, Ralph Gale, a farmer who lived right next door (next field?) to the proposed ATC had no trouble with it. Allentown resident Rachel Cotrino voiced strong support for the ATC being sited in her township. Also noted in the audience was outspoken medical marijuana advocate Don McGrath, whose property borders UFT. Multiple sclerosis (MS) patient Chuck Kwiatkowski came to say how marijuana is more effective than any other drug in allowing him to overcome the devastating symptoms of MS, and perform the simple activities of daily living. He spoke to the news media instead of the committee.

There is a lot of fear about marijuana that is caused by misinformation. The people who are opposed to the ATCs seem to believe that marijuana is a foreign and toxic substance that may soon be introduced into their township. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Monitoring the Future survey has shown, for the last thirty years in a row, that nearly all high school seniors in New Jersey have found marijuana “easy to get” or “fairly easy to get.” The only people who lack consistent and reliable access to marijuana are legitimate patients.

The security that is mandated by the State of New Jersey for these ATCs can best be described as “over-reactive.” It is far greater security than is required of pharmacies, liquor stores and bars, all of which carry far more dangerous and addicting drugs than marijuana.

The opposition’s concern about dropping property values is laughable, considering the collapse of the “housing bubble.” The ATC is regulated to be discreet, professional and secure.

Moreover, this opposition to a tightly regulated production facility for a medicinal herb is most cruel. It is certain to result in continued delay in bringing marijuana’s therapeutic relief to our state’s most desperately ill. It is certain to cause harm to patients.

The only question is why state officials won’t appear at these local meetings to allay the fears of the communities? Barring that, the state should finish the zoning rules it started in its extensive set of regulations and establish that ATCs may be permitted in any zone that allows pharmacies.

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