The forum, open to the public, will examine the dangers of marijuana and vaping. (Image courtesy Sea Isle City Municipal Alliance)

By Maddy Vitale

Cape May County and Sea Isle officials said they are ready to have a discussion with the community about marijuana and vaping, at a symposium Friday, Feb. 8.

The Sea Isle City Municipal Alliance, Mayor Len Desiderio, Sea Isle Police Department and the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office are hosting, “What’s Smokin’ in New Jersey”? from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the former school located at 4501 Park Road in Sea Isle City.

Officials said they hope the event will raise awareness about where lawmakers stand on legalization of marijuana, how vaping affects a person’s health and what the community should be aware of before making his or her decision about the two widely talked about topics.

Desiderio said considering the political climate in which Gov. Phil Murphy is a proponent for the legalization of marijuana, the mayor wants more discussion in the community and awareness about how use affects a person and the ripple effect it will have on society.

“As far as legalizing marijuana in Cape May County, Sea Isle City or the rest of the country, I am against it,” he stressed. “This is not something that will be a benefit to anyone.”

He is in favor of medical marijuana use for people who are very sick. Desiderio said in researching the matter, he learned that statistics out of Colorado, a state that legalized marijuana, accidents and crime have gone up.

“When I was growing up marijuana was considered a gateway drug to other, stronger drugs,” he noted.

Desiderio said he hopes the symposium will bring a greater awareness about the status of marijuana in the state and country and create an open discussion about the ramifications, should it be legalized, and the reasons it should not be.

He also said he has researched health concerns involving vaping, another matter that involves concerns over health.

“This is turning out to be possibly worse to a person’s system than smoking a cigarette,” he said of vaping. “There needs to be more education and more information out there on vaping.”

Sea Isle Mayor Leonard Desiderio holds an alcoholic beverage that resembles one of the energy drinks popular among teenagers at a drug forum in 2017. The mayor wants more discussion about marijuana laws and vaping.

When it came to both topics at the symposium, the mayor said he hopes the public will take a better look at both issues involving the public.

“Marijuana will likely be legalized in the state. My concern is what it would do to the youth,” Desiderio said. “I would hope the public will take a deeper look at the potential problems they both may cause.”

Sea Isle’s AARP Chapter 710 President Frank Roach, who is a Municipal Alliance Committee member, said all of the details for the event are being finalized and he is looking forward to a good discussion and residents’ input.

He said the symposium is coming at the right time.

“This is a timely subject due to the recent laws in New Jersey,” Roach said. “I agree with the mission statement of the Municipal Alliance Committee to reduce substance abuse by collaborating resources and coordinating planning in order to offer opportunities for building a healthy mind, body and spirit for the entire community of Sea Isle City.”

Roach added that the Municipal Alliance, AARP and Sea Isle City, all have one goal in mind for its residents.

“The vision for Sea Isle is for a healthy, flourishing community, free of substance abuse, and the AARP is in agreement with the mission statement and the vision for the future,” he said.

For more information about the symposium call 609-263-4461 Ext. 1222.

The forum “What’s Smokin’ in New Jersey” will be held at the former public school located at 4501 Park Road in Sea Isle.