SPARTA, NJ - The underlying issue was 24-year-old stabbing victim Scott Waselik's arrest for marijuana possession charges.
Then a Sparta resident, Waselik went to the Sparta Police station seeking help after getting stabbed in the chest by his 22-year-old roommate Kevin Rios. After a weeklong stay at Morristown Medical Center, Waselik was arrested for the marijuana and drug paraphernalia the police had found in his Sparta Lake home and Rios' automobile.
Michael Chazukow, Outreach Director for NORML NJ, and Edward "Lefty" Grimes both spoke at the Sparta Township Council meeting on Tuesday night. They began by saying they were not there to discuss the issue that will be addressed in the court. The men stated they were intending to gather in support of Waslik at his court appearance on the morning of Friday, May 16. They characterized the arrest as a "double victimization of Mr. Waselik."
Chazukow referred to a newspaper article in which Sparta Police Department Information Officer Sgt. John-Paul Beebe was quoted about their planned gathering. Addressing the council members, Chazukow characterized Beebe's reported comments as "obstructive behavior," and "want(ed) the town council to tell Beebe to change his behavior."
Mayor Molly Whilesmith said she would not comment on a statement that she had not heard first hand. She did say, "As long as they are peaceably gathered there won't be any problem."
Grimes said, "How can we find out what the guidelines are so we can peaceably gather?"
Whilesmith suggested they contact Police Chief Ernest Reigstag and asked the township clerk Mary Coe to provide the phone number.
Grimes asked for further clarification of the rules regarding the no smoking policy, specifically if someone wishing to smoke could do so in their car on municipal grounds. Township Attorney Tom Ryan said that someone wishing to smoke, even in their car, would have to leave municipal property.
Later Chazukow said they were seeking to inform local police departments about the guidelines pertaining to the use of medical marijuana.
Grimes said the state attorney general had not distributed the guidelines to local municipalities and that once informed local police were more accommodating and understanding of those with a medical marijuana card.
In a phone interview, Beebe said he had "thoroughly read the guidelines." Beebe said, "Medical marijuana is no different than any other prescription drug. It must be in the legally obtained and in container with the patients name," and other legally required information.
He said, "There are local and state laws that must be followed." Additionally, Beebe said the rules about where the drug can be smoked, who can smoke and safe operation of motor vehicle will all be enforced.
Regarding Waselik's supporters desire to congregate on Friday at the municipal building Beebe said, "As always, it is the job of the police to maintain public safety. This is not a crusade. We will simply be enforcing the rules in order to maintain the integrity of the court."