Proponents of medical marijuana sought to advance their cause with a musical performance during a recent appearance at a Middletown Township Committee meeting.
During the public comment portion of a workshop meeting on June 3, several members of the public advocated for the legalization and use of medicinal cannabis to treat patients with certain ailments or illnesses that have been diagnosed by a medical professional.
In a plea to members of the governing body, Bayonne resident Edward Grimes encouraged officials to examine the positive aspects of supporting medical marijuana as a substitute for opioid narcotics.
According to opioids.thetruth.com, 47,600 people died of opioid overdoses in America in 2017. Each day that year, an estimated 1,300 young adults misused an opioid prescription for the first time.
After rising from his motorized wheelchair, Grimes walked toward the officials and said, “I had a very tough morning. My brother-in-law died from an opioid overdose. This afternoon, we had to figure out how to tell his 11-year-old and 16-year-old daughters how he died.
“ … For years I tried to get him on cannabis. I’ve helped other people get off of opioids and to start using cannabis. I thought I could help him (too), but it wasn’t in the cards for him,” Grimes said.
Grimes said he and several other advocates who are in favor of medical marijuana are visiting municipalities to try and encourage public officials to recognize what Grimes described as the benefits of marijuana use.
According to PRA Health Sciences, “several studies have reported that marijuana can cause significant reduction in pain, but its efficacy and safety may also depend on how the drug is administered. The amount of active drug(s) delivered depends on whether it is administered by oral tablets, oromucosal spray, vaporizing or smoking.”
Following his remarks, Grimes and a young man who was dressed in a homemade, 9-foot-tall bong costume sang an original tune about cannabis to the members of the Township Committee.
The young man in the costume played the acoustic guitar while the men performed a duet in which they named all of the municipalities – in alphabetical order – which they said have banned marijuana use.
The chorus of the original tune was “You can’t get no weed here. Keep your cancer home dear.”
Following the three-minute performance, Oceanport resident Jeffrey Oakes, who said he is battling stage 4 cancer, said he formerly used opioids to combat what he described as chronic pain which relates to his diagnosis.
Oakes said he had not used opioids for three years, until two weeks ago.
“I have been to countless council meetings. I can truly vouch for the effects of opioids. Two-thirds of addictions come from these,” Oakes said, shaking a bottle of pills. “This is a loaded gun in this jar. I have (opioids) now as a last resort. I just got (the opioids) two weeks ago as a last resort. I’d take anything to get out of the pain I’m in.
“But (marijuana) is my choice, not (opioids) … You don’t even have to smoke it … Marijuana offends some people, but this will be the new norm in medical treatments … I hope the (Township Committee) could communicate with its police department to educate them on the CUMA laws,” Oakes said.
According to the Resnick Law Group, the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (CUMA) was enacted in 2009 and defines permissible uses for the drug, establishes prescription guidelines for doctors, and creates a registry for patients.
However, federal law classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance which means marijuana does not have an accepted use in medical treatment. New Jersey is among the majority of states which allow, under the supervision of a doctor, the possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes, according to the legal firm.
A third advocate, Vince Digioia of Middletown, said he is concerned with what he described as a lack of housing for individuals who have been released from prison who cannot find clean, safe places to live.
“Our option for these people is to be homeless. I would love to have a conversation with someone who could help us,” Digioia said, adding that he works for the New Jersey state prison system.
“When people are paroled to Monmouth County, those people are going to be homeless … Those people are sleeping on the beaches and in the woods,” Digioia said. “And with parole, some people can’t leave Monmouth County. One of the biggest ways people can stay clean is with housing. Clean housing. Affordable housing. Housing that is safe and where they won’t deal or do drugs.”
In an interview after the meeting, Digioia said he is not an advocate for the construction of halfway homes for individuals who have been released from prison. He suggested that in some cases, individuals who have been released from prison could be placed in temporary living arrangements such as a hotel or motel.
Mayor Tony Perry and Deputy Mayor Anthony Fiore thanked the individuals for their time.
In a effort to clarify any misconceptions members of the public may have which pertain to marijuana use, Fiore said, “I think the confusion which may have brought you out here was the (Township Committee’s previous) discussion about recreational marijuana vs. medical marijuana. They are two opposing uses … I think this committee has made no aspersions or restrictions to either use at this point.”