The township committee’s gambit to prohibit the local sale and production of legalized marijuana is meant to compel the state to share more of the windfall tax revenue but it could end up limiting access for people who would benefit from weed, cannabis advocates argue.
“It’s not all Cheech & Chong … I don’t live my life that way. I’m a father and a grandfather,” said Richard Moroski, who uses medical marijuana to treat his multiple sclerosis. “I pay my taxes and I’m a good guy. I am the guy you want to stop on the side of the road in case you get a flat tire.”
The committee introduced an ordinance at this week’s meeting that would ban “certain business uses associated with the growth, production and sale of recreational marijuana within the township of Middletown and establishing minimal conditional use standards for medical marijuana related facilities.”
Afterward, they heard from a parade of cannabis proponents who shared deeply personal stories of how the drug has changed their lives for the better.
Vincent DiGioia-Laird, a North Middletown resident who owns an online cannabis paraphernalia shop, said he owes his life to the plant. He was a heroin addict.
Suffering from intractable back pain, DiGioia-Laird was put on opioid pain management plan which led him down a path of darkness. He now treats his continuing pain with cannabis.
“Demerol was what brought me to heroin. Then my doctor cut me off. Well, my body doesn’t know the difference between legal heroin (the pills he was prescribed) and heroin off the street. So I started using heroin,” he told the committee. “I was homeless in Penn Station for almost a year and a half, eating out of trash cans, doing whatever it took to get one more. The reason why I am clean today is because of cannabis.”
The discourse was almost entirely genial. Colleen Begley, who came from Burlington County to ask the committee to reconsider, even led a round of applause for police officers in the room — several were present for a swearing-in ceremony at the start of the meeting.
While the township committee pressed ahead with a proposal to ban legal weed related businesses across Middletown, it did leave the door open to dropping some or all of the prohibition should the state share more tax revenues with municipalities.
Committeeman Tony Fiore reiterated that the township doesn’t intend to take action on the ordinance until it gets a look at the structure of the state’s legalization bill,
“If the economics change, this may never see the light of day,” Fiore said.