The cop left, then they discussed marijuana.
Before the start of its latest meeting, one that included a heated discussion over cannabis, the Shamong Township Committee had a member of the State Police in attendance.
As part of its monthly tradition to honor an individual or group within the community, the committee recognized the local State Police Red Lion Station for its commitment to the township.
Lt. Richard Gilman, a state trooper for 25 years and a member of the Red Lion Station for the past two, was there to receive the proclamation and to speak on behalf of the station.
“My approach for when I got to Red Lion is I wanted to bring back the piece of humanity to law enforcement, treat people with dignity,” said Gilman.
Gilman gave the committee an update on the upcoming school year, including the station’s plan to put in place selective patrol assignments at bus stops and to participate in more school events. The station is also introducing a new drug program, Law Enforcement Against Drugs, within the school district, according to Gilman.
“We’re a small town, and we’re fortunate to have not so many serious challenges. But those we’ve had over the past couple years and since I’ve lived here the past 25 years, you and the troopers have always handled it professionally and courteously,” said Mayor Michael Di Croce.
Gilman left the meeting after he received the proclamation, and coincidentally, almost immediately after, during public comment, there was a heated discussion over cannabis.
Shamong resident Martha Bohi inquired about a recently approved resolution that expresses intent to adopt an ordinance that would allow the production, distribution and sale of cannabis in the township.
Some members of the public, including Bohi, fear that having a cannabis industry in town will turn the “not so many serious challenges” that Di Croce and the town have seen over the years into a community with many.
Di Croce stated the resolution does not mean the township has or will have a cannabis industry. Rather, it is a way for the committee to communicate to residents that it might pursue such actions in the future, at a time when cannabis becomes legal in the state. Even though committee members unanimously approved the resolution a few months ago, it does not mean those same members will approve having a cannabis industry in Shamong when the time comes.
Bohi’s inquiry sparked an intense debate among residents during public comment.
Bohi told Di Croce to put her “down for a no” in relation to his statement saying 80 to 90 percent of people he’s encountered say “yes” to having a cannabis industry in the town.
Another resident at the meeting, Eileen Carlos, also expressed disagreement with the committee. Another resident, who sat beside Carlos, visibly agreed with her critiques with constant head-nods and disheartened mumbles directed toward Di Croce.
What showed during public comment was a town that had impassioned opinions on both sides.
“If it becomes legal, somebody’s going to grow it,” said resident Bill Lampman. “Why not be on the ground floor? I think it’s a great idea.”
“Why not be on the ground floor? Because I would venture to say my poll of 80 percent or more people want to remain anonymous,” said Bohi. “If we work in Trenton, or Philadelphia or Mount Laurel, we’re willing to drive because when we come home we’re in a nice, little anonymous town, and this will put us on the map. We’re now going to be known and our anonymity will be lost forever.”