Activists Take Pot Shots at Barnegat Township Officials

Mar 13, 2019
Source: Barnegat Township

Barnegat Township Mayor Alfonso Cirulli has been an outspoken opponent of New Jersey legalizing marijuana, having sent a petition throughout town and speaking at a mayors conference in Trenton.

Apparently, Cirulli’s staunch opinions have made their way around the state, as a few pro-marijuana activists showed up at the March 5 township committee meeting.

Currently, marijuana is criminalized for recreational use in New Jersey but permitted for medical use. Gov. Phil Murphy had vowed to legalize recreational marijuana within the first 100 days of his administration last year, but the bill has yet to come up for a vote in the Assembly and Senate. It was approved last November by Senate and Assembly committees, but it has stalled since.

At Cirulli’s request, the committee passed a resolution opposing legalizing recreational use. Last year, the committee adopted an ordinance that would ban the “retail sale, cultivation, manufacturing and testing of recreational marijuana.” The ordinance would block marijuana retail establishments, cultivation facilities, cannabis product manufacturing and testing facilities from operating in the township, should New Jersey legalize marijuana for recreational use.

The three people in favor of legalization were easy to spot at the meeting, as they wore T-shirts that read, “Don’t Shoot, Get Stoned.” During the public comment portion of the meeting they spoke about how medical marijuana helped them deal with serious medical issues.

Cirulli stressed that he and the committee are not opposed to medical marijuana, but are against legalizing recreational use. But the speakers said the committee’s stance puts an unfair stigma on those who need marijuana for medical purposes. They also said marijuana can replace a patient’s dependency on opioids and thus make a dent in the opioid epidemic. 

The ordinance Barnegat adopted last year inspired one of the speakers, David Grimes, to break out into a little song. It was a parody of “I’ve Been Everywhere,” which was changed to “You Can’t Get No Weed Here,” and in rapid-fire delivery rattled off all the towns in the state, including Barnegat, that have adopted anti-weed ordinances.

Grimes, who lives in Bayonne, said he was on painkilling drugs for nearly 10 years due to back problems.

Pointing to the Bible used for swearing in police officers earlier at the meeting, Grimes said, “That Bible tells you to help the sick and the dying. And what you do to the least of us you do to God. We need to do better.”

Mike Vintzileos, a Point Pleasant resident, told Cirulli that marijuana “is out of your spectrum.”

“I needed medical marijuana to get off opiates,” he said. “I was overprescribed by a doctor and that led to a heroin addiction. I was on methadone for a while and that was a horrible way to live. Medical marijuana gave me my life back.”

Vintzileos said the township’s stance makes it “complicit in opioid overdoses,” to which Cirulli responded, “I think you’re smoking too much.”

“You don’t have any answers,” Vintzileos said. “Marijuana to me is medicine. I am now a productive member of society.” 

Seated in a wheelchair, Jeffrey Oakes of Oceanport said, “This is my medicine for stage 4 cancer.”

“Wow, what ignorance,” he said. “What do you say I use? You’re taking my medicine away. You people are criminals to push this garbage.”

Oakes noted that earlier in the meeting, the committee accepted a proclamation for MS awareness.

“I have friends with MS and they’re suffering and they need this medicine. You’re calling marijuana a gateway drug and that’s a fraud. I haven’t touched an opioid in three years. I’m an example of being opioid free. I go around the state fighting the opioid epidemic and you’re doing nothing. People in town are getting hoodwinked.”

Deputy Mayor John Novak said he had “no problem” if a doctor believes that a person needs marijuana to help fight pain and side effects of other drugs.

“But I see what happens to some people who let drugs get control of their life,” he said. “Our stance is against (legalizing) recreational use. We don’t want it to happen.”

— Eric Englund

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