BRICK – A second hearing for a proposed medical marijuana dispensary on Adamston Road was postponed on the advice of Board of Adjustment attorney Robert Miller who recommended a larger venue since the standing-room-only crowd extended into the hallway at the municipal complex.
“Everyone has a fundamental constitutional right to attend and to speak if they wish,” the attorney said.
“I can see and hear people out in the hallway. This room has to be large enough for people to attend this meeting,” he said. “Their rights are in jeopardy.”
The room appeared to be divided down the middle, with people opposed to the facility wearing blue buttons on the left, and pro-medical marijuana dispensary advocates on the right, wearing green pins.
Board of Adjustment Chair Harvey Langer sternly admonished the audience that he would not stand for clapping, yelling or screaming, and said he would not hesitate to have people removed.
Several residents who live near the 6.57 acre site at 385 Adamston Road, formerly an Ocean First Bank, have hired opposing attorney Edward Liston, who urged Langer to postpone the meeting to avoid an appeal based on the size of the crowd.
“This won’t be the last meeting, we’ll wind up in court one way or another, but that’s one issue we won’t have to discuss anymore,” Liston said.
Miller agreed. “The board should take this under consideration. There could be legal ramifications if we proceed,” he said.
The first Board of Adjustment meeting for the application by Jersey Shore Therapeutic Health Care, co-owned by Ann Davis and Karen Medlin, was held on Oct. 10.
During that meeting, attorney for the applicant John Paul Doyle cited New Jersey’s 2010 Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (CUMMA) that allows for six treatment centers in the state: two in the north, two in central Jersey and two in the south.
Jersey Shore Therapeutic Health Care is hoping to get permission from the Department of Health to operate one of the six new dispensaries; even if they do, they must also get approval from the municipality.
The company originally had until Nov. 30 for Board of Adjustment approval, but the state is still reviewing some 146 applications for the six new licenses, so that date has been adjourned, Miller said.
Doyle said that the Adamston Road location would make another treatment center more accessible to patients from Ocean and Monmouth Counties. The closest center is currently in Woodbridge.
The property has a 2,800-square foot bank building, a parking lot and privately-owned acreage in the rear which would partly be used as a cultivation center.
During the Nov. 19 hearing, Doyle noted that the sole issue for postponing the meeting was the fire code which determined the capacity of the room at 238 people.
“If there’s less, let’s proceed since we’re not violating any laws,” he said.
Miller disagreed. “There’s a number of people in the hallway, and there’s still people coming in. I’d like to carry the meeting to comply with case law.”
Construction Official Dan Newman was called in to do a head count. While the exact number was not clear, Business Administrator Joanne Bergin said there were fewer than 238 people in attendance.
In the end, Langer polled the Board of Adjustment members, a majority of who said the meeting should be held in a larger venue.
A notice of a new date and venue would be published on the township website. Langer said he was hopeful the meeting could be held in January when “cooler heads would prevail.”