Pubdate: Sat, 14 Jan 2012
Source: Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ)
Copyright: 2012 Newark Morning Ledger Co


As New Jersey trudges slowly toward distributing legal medical 
marijuana, some towns might need a nudge to help them do the right 
thing - in the name of greater good.

The state's medical marijuana law is two years old, but medicinal pot 
is not yet available to New Jersey patients. The next step is to open 
growing and dispensing facilities throughout the state.

Already, though, municipalities are putting zoning laws on the books 
that effectively bar these perfectly legal medical centers from their 
borders. It's a "Reefer Madness" hysteria that is based on 
nonexistent fears - that facilities will lure both criminals and 
federal drug raids.

For the sake of the patients, this is a zoning decision that must be 
taken out of local hands.

New Jersey's medical marijuana law is the most restrictive in the 
nation. The idea that federal drug agents will raid our grow 
operations already has been debunked. And pot dispensaries will hold 
only a tiny fraction of the narcotics found in any neighborhood 
Walgreen's or Rite Aid.

And hold onto your cries of "home rule" - there are lots of laws that 
say the greater good trumps local preferences.

Eminent domain, for example, lets the state and federal government 
decide where to build prisons, highways, schools and other public 
projects over local objections. State laws prevent communities from 
zoning group homes and other so-called nuisances out of existence.

In this case, Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon (R-Monmouth) would add 
marijuana to the list of crops protected by New Jersey's Right to 
Farm Act, which protects farmers from nuisance lawsuits and municipal 
zoning that target ordinary farming activities - such as the use of 
fertilizers and farm equipment. If passed, the law would nullify 
anti-pot rules adopted in towns such as Upper Freehold, Maple Shade 
and Westampton.

The Republican from Monmouth County - where towns already have passed 
local ordinances banning marijuana grow facilities and dispensaries - 
said he has a moral obligation to right a wrong, to protect patients 
who need medical marijuana from unnecessary delays.

Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday he believes local elected officials 
should be able to block medical marijuana facilities from their towns 
- - risking still more delays toward finally getting legal pot to the 
patients who need it.

Continued delays accomplish nothing but to prolong the suffering of 
the sick. New Jersey, after years of hand-wringing, finally legalized 
marijuana for these patients - many of them dying, many in pain. More 
delays over unfounded fears amount, plainly and simply, to torture.
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