Montgomery Passes Ordinance to Prohibit the Growing, Sale & Other Ancillary Business Related to Recreational Marijuana
“It’s not the Woodstock weed that Baby Boomers might remember.”
— Devangi Patel, Health Educator, Montgomery Township Health Department
In anticipation of a state law that would legalize recreational marijuana, Montgomery Township Committee recently approved a controversial ordinance to prohibit the growing, cultivation, production, manufacturing, storage, distribution, and sale of marijuana products, and any ancillary or related paraphernalia for recreational purposes.
Also prohibited are facilities, businesses, or establishments that would permit the consumption of recreational marijuana in the township of Montgomery.
Before voting, Mayor Christine Madrid called upon several Montgomery Township employees to give their professional opinions on recreational marijuana, beginning with Stephanie Carey, the Montgomery Health Officer.
“NJ appears to be rushing headlong toward legalization of recreational marijuana,” Carey reported. “However, the experiences we’ve seen with some of the other states that have gone towards legalizing recreational marijuana show alarming gaps in some of the regulatory factors.
“For one thing, this isn’t your 1960s pot, today’s cannabis oils are extraordinarily potent — 20, 30, 40 times as potent as, let us say, classic marijuana.”
Carey, who holds a master’s in Public Health from UMDNJ and a BS in Natural Resource Management from Cook College at Rutgers University, noted the public safety community is worried because there are no good, standardized ways to measure impaired driving.
For example, there is a Breathalyzer test for alcoholic beverages, but not a comparable test for measuring whether a person is driving under the influence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis.
Carey also said “in all of the states that have legalized marijuana, there are issues with increased access for minors.”
“We already have issues with youth access to tobacco and vape that we are dealing with,” she said. “The idea of having to control access for those under 21 for cannabis products is a real struggle for those of us who would be charged with doing that kind of enforcement.”
In addition, Carey mentioned she is concerned the safety recommendations are all over the map. “Some proponents are encouraging pregnant women to use it for controlling morning sickness,” she said.
“We already know alcohol and tobacco are harmful to the developing fetus,” Carey said. “There’s no good research on what the impacts are for use of marijuana during pregnancy.”
Another concern is the kinds of products that are coming out in edible form, such as cannabis soda, cannabis candy, brownies, gummy bears, and lollypops.
“In Colorado, there have been spikes in emergency room admittance for children because it looks like candy, it tastes like candy, and there’s no childproof packaging,” Carey said. “A child or adult could accidentally overdose because they don’t understand what’s in these candies.”
To summarize from The New England Journal of Medicine, Carey said that “repeated marijuana use during adolescence may result in long lasting changes in brain function that can jeopardize educational, professional, and social achievements.”
Montgomery Police Captain Tom Wain also spoke at the meeting. He said the only way to test a motorist suspected of driving under the influence of cannabis is for two police officers to drive the suspect to the closest hospital to obtain a blood test, and that this would be onerous and time consuming.
“I don’t think it is in the best interest of Montgomery or the Montgomery Township Police department,” Capt Wain said about the state legalizing marijuana.
Devangi Patel, a health educator with the Montgomery Township Health Department, commented on the potencies of today’s cannabis.
“It’s not the Woodstock weed that Baby Boomers might remember,” she said. “In the 60s, 70s, and 80s, the levels of THC averaged two to three percent. Now it’s an average of 20 percent.
“If you look at concentrate, or extracts used in vapes or edibles, the THC levels can be as much as 90 percent,” Patel said. “They are dangerously potent.”
After taking both pro and con comments from the audience, the four township committee members in attendance voted to approve the new ordinance.
Committee member Sadaf Jaffer was absent from the meeting. ■