CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham Borough Council member Bob Weber made a power-point presentation on the "Consequences of Legalized Marijuana" and urged the council to pass a resolution opposing the state's "fast-track" legalization at Monday night's regular meeting.
The council decided to take a slower approach, with a resolution vote scheduled for its Dec. 10 meeting. According to Weber, state lawmakers could vote as early as Dec. 17 to legalize recreational use of marijuana in opposition to federal law.
"This is an issue that amounts to a profound sea change in many respects," Thad Kobylarz, council member said, "Marijuana already exists. It's been in our society for a very long time. This is the end of prohibition, so this is a historical moment."
Kobylarz is asking for MACC, the Municipal Alliance Committee of the Chathams to hold "town halls' on the subject to objectively present the pros and cons of marijuana.
Weber, a former prosecutor of drug offenders for 18 years, expressed concern that "Pot Shops" could be coming to Chatham Borough at the Sept. 11 meeting of the council. In a PlanetCivic survey, Chatham Borough residents said they opposed the sale of pot for recreational purposes in town, but are not opposed to medical marijuana shops.
Any ordinance banning the sale of recreational marijuana in Chatham Borough would not come before January, 2019, after newly elected council members Jocelyn Mathiasen and Carolyn Dempsey are sworn in. There is not time to introduce and hold a public hearing before the end of the year.
In his presentation, Weber emphasized that his No. 1 goal was to keep marijuana away from children, and pointed out that the proposed New Jersey law would allow for "smoking rooms" in places that sell marijuana and that there is no standard or test for identifying drivers "under the influence" of marijuana.
Even though there could not be a direct link made between marijuana use and traffic accidents, Weber cited statistics that traffic incidents spiked in states such as Colorado in the time since the drug was legalized for recreational use.
Weber makes the point that the proposed New Jersey law would tell law enforcement officers to ignore federal law
Weber said that the proposed law requires municipalities to opt-out within 180 days of the new legislation's passage. If a town does not opt out, it will be locked into the law for five years. Weber said that 40 municipalities had pre-emptively opted out. Chatham Township and Florham Park are among the 40.
Weber said that state government sees the legalization of marijuana as a "Cash Cow," and is a skeptic when it comes to claims that the tax revenue the state brings in will go toward drug treatment programs.
"You're not going to see that money," Weber said. "What we know government does, as it so often does, is take money they are going to dedicate to one thing and use it for another. If you take look at states like Washington State, Colorado, all the money that was promised for these programs never materialized."
"There is something fundamentally wrong with how we got here and why we got here, but now we're left dealing with it," Weber said. "If it were simply adults putting a bad substance into their bodies, I wouldn't be on my soapbox. But I don't think this is good for a lot of residents of our state."