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You are here: Home News "Beyond Bergen" - News From Across New Jersey Marijuana debate reaches an unpleasant point at the beach | Mulshine

News From "Beyond Bergen"

Marijuana debate reaches an unpleasant point at the beach | Mulshine

The mayor of a town filled with rowdy summer bars is leading the charge against legalizing marijuana; a former mayor argues it's hypocritical to slam marijuana when the town has lots of loud bars that attract a rowdy summer crowd

A friend of mine who grew up near the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk recalls a time when Martell's was not much more than a glorified shack on the beach where the kids could buy penny candies.

"Watermelon slices, red-hot dollars, pink nougats, Mary-Janes, baby Sugar Daddies and of course the string licorice," she recalled.

Now it's a giant nightclub that plays host every summer to hundreds of  people who look like they're answering a casting call for the next remake of "Jersey Shore." The same can be said of neighboring Jenkinson's.

There's a place for that sort of thing, I guess. But if you're going turn your town over to some of the rowdiest people on the planet every summer, why get all worked up about the prospect of some people buying a little pot?

That is the question riling the town at the moment. The mayor, Stephen Reid, has been having a tiff with a former mayor, Vince Barrella over the town's identity.

It seems that Reid is not only the mayor but the paid executive director of an anti-pot group known as New Jersey Responsible Approaches to Marijuana Policy (NJRAMP).

In that role he has been going around the state encouraging his fellow mayors to resist the establishment of marijuana dispensaries in their towns in the event legalization is approved by the Legislature, which could happen as soon as next week.

Barrella, who is a professor at a law school, questions whether that represents a conflict of interest.

Reid says no. But the issue has certainly livened up the meetings of the Borough Council.

Last week the representatives of a medical-marijuana advocacy group showed up to attack the mayor for opposing the expansion of medical marijuana at a  Nov. 26 meeting of a legislative committee.

"Your mayor has been going all over the state of New Jersey, against the wishes of the board of health no less, trashing us, stigmatizing us,"  said one member of the group called "Sativa Cross: Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse." Another said Reid  called such dispensaries "pot shops."

In the middle of the scrum, Barrella took the floor to decry statements from Reid and council members that Point Pleasant Beach is a family resort.

"We are not a quiet fishing town," Barrella said. "We're a town with 21 liquor licenses. The liquor industry here in town looks at the legalization of marijuana as a competitive disadvantage."

When Barrella was mayor, he pushed for an ordinance setting a midnight bar closing. The goal was to put a lid on the megabars in town, as Belmar successfully did in the 1980s, and perhaps forge a return to the days of the penny candies - adjusted for inflation, of course.

Opposing that ordinance was none other than the governor, Chris Christie. He engaged in a public fight with Barrella that ended with his Alcoholic Beverage Commission director nixing the midnight bar closing The mega-bars continued to thrive.

Though Christie was pro-bar, he is anti-marijuana. That set the parameters for the current debate, Barrella said when I called him the other day.

"I gotta think there'd be less intrusion from a dispensary than there are from multiple liquor licenses," said Barrella.   "It's hypocritical to pretend we're like Bay Head or Mantoloking or Spring Lake."

When I gave Reid a call, he said that Barrella is exaggerating the problems with the big bars along the beach.

"That's what Vince likes to say, but I really don't see too many problems  with Jenkinson's  and Martell's," Reid said. "They wouldn't belong in Bay Head, but like it or not this is a tourism town."

Who does belong in Bay Head? Chris Christie, that's who. When it came time to buy a summer home after he left office, he decided to buy in Bay Head rather than Point Pleasant Beach.

He will thus be spared the prospect of hearing loud drunks walking past his door after closing time at 2 a.m., a prospect with which his neighbors to the north are all too familiar.

As for the potheads, I suspect Christie will be safe from them as well.

But I certainly wouldn't trust them around the candies.

Follow Paul Mulshine on Twitter @Mulshine. Find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.


Read full article at NJ.com


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