FAIR HAVEN: COUNCIL TAKES AIM AT POT, GUNS

Councilman Bob Marchese urged the council to ban recreational pot sales while allowing for medicinal trade. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

Mixed in among discussions of yard sales and tree removals at the Fair Haven council’s semimonthly meeting Monday night were two issues of concern statewide and beyond: marijuana and guns.

Council President Jon Peters, who recently visited family in Parkland, Florida, wrote the gun-control resolution. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

• The council advanced a proposed amendment to its zoning law to ban the retail sale of marijuana and related products within borough borders, should Governor Phil Murphy get his way with legalization.

But unlike neighboring Rumson and Little Silver, as well as other Monmouth County towns that have enacted outright bans, Fair Haven’s prohibition would allow for medicinal dispensaries, at the urging of council members Bob Marchese and Chris Rodriguez.

“We have a quality of life issue in this town. We don’t want marijuana paraphernalia stores popping up, but when it comes to medical marijuana, that’s a different story,” said Rodriguez, referring to himself and Marchese. “We believe if somebody has cancer, somebody has chronic pain, they should be able to get whatever they need prescribed by a doctor that is allowed to prescribe that.”

Rodriguez and Marchese appeared to differ, however, on the urgency of the borough acting to amend its law.

“This state needs revenue,” Marchese said. “It ain’t gonna wait two years to get that revenue, I’ll tell you that right now.”

Marchese, who serves as liaison to the Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High Substance Abuse Alliance, urged the council to act without delay, because, as a change to the zoning law, the proposed ordinance would first have to be introduced and then forwarded to the planning board for review. The board would have up to 45 days to review the plan before returning it to the governing body for possible adoption, he told redbankgreen. An introduction is expected next month.

“I think the state legislation is going to move quickly,” he said. “Something’s going to pass, maybe some sort of bipartisan compromise.”

If Murphy signs a bill before the borough acts, “now, guess what, all of a sudden there’s a place on River Road” selling pot, he said.

On Tuesday, Murphy announced a number of changes aimed at eliminating “bureaucratic nonsense” that barred access to medicinal marijuana access. His plan would add medical conditions for which pot might be prescribed and reduce patient and caregiver fees, among other changes.

Murphy has characterized the action on medical marijuana as a precursor to his aim of legalizing recreational use.

• The council also adopted a resolution initiated by Councilman President Jon Peters, calling on Congress to adopt “common sense” limits on guns; holding up New Jersey’s ban on so-called assault weapons as a model; and demanding improved identification of individuals at risk of committing gun violence.

Peters, who attended the March for Our Lives gun-control rally in Red Bank with his wife Saturday, said he wrote a draft of the measure while visiting family in Parkland, Florida, the location of a February 14 slaughter of 17 high students and adults by a gunman armed with an AR-15 rifle.

The resolution won unanimous approval, with Councilman Eric Jaeger absent.

Here’s the resolution, which was not on the agenda and was read into the record as a 2018-84:

RESOLUTION NO. 2018-XX

TITLE:​ Recognizing the Community of Parkland FloridaReaffirming the Strict Assault Weapons Laws in the State of New Jersey and Advocating for Stricter National Level Common-Sense Gun Safety Legislation and Improved Reporting and Management of Persons of Risk.

WHEREAS, the Borough of Fair Haven is saddened by the unthinkable and horrific acts committed at Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018 impacting the children and broader community forevermore; and

WHEREASthe Borough of Fair Haven Mayor and the Borough Council as a unified bipartisan body calls for an end to the senseless violence caused by deranged individuals with access to assault weapons in communities around our country through improved legislation at all levels of government; and

WHEREASChildren throughout the nation have been negatively affected directly and indirectly by violent crimes involving firearms; and

WHEREASDr. Colleen Kraft, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), formally issued a statement onFebruary 15, 2018 on behalf of the AAP that encapsulates our colective sentiment:

“Children are dying from gun violence and Congress is failing to act. Every one of our 100 U.S. senators, and all 435 U.S. representatives bear a responsibility to take meaningful action to protect our children, our families, and our communities. Our elected leaders cannot continue to fail at this most essential task.

We can start by working to advance meaningful legislation that keeps children safe. The American Academy of Pediatrics advocates for stronger state and federal gun laws that protect children, including a ban on assault weapons like the one used in yesterday’s school shooting. We also call for stronger background checks, solutions addressing firearm trafficking, and encouraging safe firearm storage. We will also continue to work to ensure that children and their families have access to appropriate mental health services, particularly to address the effects of exposure to violence.; and

WHEREAS, the tragedies of Parkland, Florida, of Newtown, Connecticut, of Columbine High School in Colorado, emphasize the extreme need to immediately address access to firearms and the delivery of mental health services; and 

WHEREASour public reporting systems that are used to identify clear threats, individuals who are in need of mental health services and proactive law enforcement intervention had unacceptable functional gaps. Thus, we need bold actions to improve our reporting of school violence, individuals at risk and public threats.  It is unacceptable that these systems which received multiple tips were not up to the task of providing key information to public safety officials who then should have acted with all due haste to address the public risk.  The true sadness of this situation was that in the months prior to this incident there appears to have been  multiple flags which were raised that could and should have resulted in swift action by public officials and law enforcement that could have prevented this incident and/or saved lives; and

WHEREASThe Fair Haven Borough Council respects the rights of the vast majority of gun owners who are respectful of the tremendous power of these weapons and who are constantly vigilant in the management and use of firearms to promote public safety.  We support the responsible use of firearms in recreation and sports and are confident that the firearms owners and industry can and will work in partnership with our communities to assure that all firearms owners are properly trained and licensed.  We also believe that reasonable compromise is the key to both protecting the rights promised in the Constitution of the United States of America as well as assuring that firearms are not in the hands of individuals who lack the control and mental stability to assure public safety.  Thus, some aspects of gun regulation must be adjusted to assure that the events at Parkland are not repeated. Our community of Fair Haven demands that the strict assault weapons laws of our State be held as the model for the rest of the nation to ensure these types of atrocities never occur in our community or any community going forward; and

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Mayor and Council of the Borough of Fair Haven in the County of Monmouth, State of New Jersey, urges our national leadership including all members of Congress regardless of party affiliation to identify and implement meaningful action to address access to and ownership of military-style assault weapons and ammunition, accurate and complete reporting of the activities of at-risk individualsthe delivery of mental health services, and financial support to ensure a safe and secure school climate.