Lodi joins other New Jersey towns in ban of legal weed sales

Kristie Cattafi

LODI — The borough is the latest town to ban medical and recreational marijuana businesses, despite pleas from medical marijuana activists. 

Medical marijuana activist Edward "Lefty" Grimes asked the Lodi council to reconsider banning medical marijuana from town.

The ban applies to cultivating, manufacturing, processing, warehousing, distributing and selling marijuana.

"We're putting this in place so there is no widespread rush to set up anything in our community," Mayor Emil Carafa said.

Edward "Lefty" Grimes, a self-styled medical marijuana activist, attended the Borough Council's session Tuesday  with the hope that he might persuade it to treat medical marijuana and recreational marijuana differently. 

Grimes, who suffers from back pain after a fall at work required him to have multiple spine surgeries, has visited more than 70 police stations and attended over 100 council meetings throughout the state since 2014 in an effort to educate officers about the guidelines for enforcing New Jersey's medical marijuana law. 

But he was unsuccessful in persuading the council to alter its course. 

"This is not the kind of thing you want to do to people," Grimes said.

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Lodi joins other towns who have passed similar restrictions this year including Woodcliff Lake, Mahwah, Hasbrouck Heights, Garfield, Carlstadt and Wood-Ridge.

As towns have been banning marijuana sales, Grimes has been attending council meetings to ask officials to consider patients he says will be affected by these bans.

"You should be ashamed of yourselves. You should table this ordinance," Grimes said. "I'm really disgusted because I see a lot of people suffering and this shouldn't happen."

Grimes and two other medical marijuana patients spoke on the benefits medical marijuana has had on their lives. 

Their stories inspired Lodi resident Maria Balagtas to speak against the ban. Balagtas said she suffers from lupus and diabetes and has always been afraid to try medical marijuana. Balagtas' daughter, who also suffers from lupus, lives in California and is a medical marijuana patient. 

"I'm afraid to use drugs, but listening to these people here I think it will be very beneficial for me too," Balagtas said to the council. 

Gov. Phil Murphy has been pushing for New Jersey to be the 19th state to allow adults to use recreational marijuana and further expand medical access. The industry could bring in $850 million by the year 2022 and could create 98 dispensaries, experts predict. 

"We're waiting for the law. I don't think anyone is against medical marijuana," Carafa said. "We're just being proactive." 

E-mail: cattafi@northjersey.com