BRICK – Will a medical marijuana dispensary soon take root in Brick? It’s a possibility.
The Brick Township Zoning Board of Adjustment held a special hearing for such a proposal on October 10 and scores of residents showed up to say their piece about the controversial site. The evening stretched on for over three hours; it was a markedly contentious hearing that was delayed for further discussion until Nov. 19. No official action was taken.
The board heard testimonies for the proposal of the Jersey Shore Therapeutic Health Center by 385 Adamston, LLC for Use Variance and Preliminary and Final Site Plan Approval. The facility would be located on 385 Adamston Road in the township, also known as Block 195, Lot 11.01.
What exists on the property now is an old bank building, a little over 2,800 square feet, and a parking lot. The project aims to construct a dispensary and cultivation center on the property.
Attorney for the project, John Paul Doyle, opened the hearing by discussing the apparent need for the site in Brick as well as some of its parameters.
“It [medical marijuana] is appropriate for society, it has unique qualities,” he said. “But to be clear, my client does not seek with this application…to have permission for the retail sale of recreational marijuana.”
Citing New Jersey’s 2010 Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (CUMMA), Doyle expressed that the need for an alternate treatment center (ATC) is present for those patients located in the Ocean/Monmouth County area.
The law allowed for the establishment of 6 ATCs in the state; 2 north, 2 central, and 2 south. With this application, Doyle stated that it would place another ATC in a location much more accessible to patients from Ocean and Monmouth counties.
The existing ATCs are:
- Compassionate Care Foundation, Egg Harbor Township
- Greenleaf Compassion Center, Montclair
- Garden State Dispensary, Woodbridge
- Breakwater Alternative Treatment Center, Cranbury
- Harmony Dispensary, Secaucus
- Curaleaf NJ Inc., Bellmawr
According to Ann Davis, owner of the property at 385 Adamston Road and former medical marijuana patient, the nearest dispensary to Ocean and Monmouth county residents is in Woodbridge, nearly an hour drive. She attested to the difficulty of accessibility, as a former patient at the Woodbridge center who lives in Ocean County.
Doyle and Davis marked the significance of establishing the dispensary in Brick, noting that Ocean County is the second largest population of medical marijuana card holders in New Jersey; and Monmouth County, the third. Ocean County holds 10 percent of the 31,000 card holders in the state, stated Davis.
What many residents expressed concern over during the hearing had to do with safety, security, and accessibility of the drug to those who may not need it medically.
Brick resident William Truex lives 150 feet from the proposed ATC with his two young children of 5 and 6 years. “This is a byway for young children,” he said, noting that the proximity of marijuana farming near a residential area with children is worrisome.
Echoing this concern was Brick resident Diana Diaz, who lives 200 feet from the proposed site. Diaz questioned the legitimacy of the site’s location “smack dab in the middle of a residential zone.”
“It is not exclusively residential,” said Davis. Doyle also noted that the location is zoned R1, which allows for various uses including industrial, single family, and agricultural.
Lavallette resident Brick Denzel, who owns property in Brick, questioned the extent of the township’s control over use of the drug outside the bounds of the dispensary.
“When I was walking in here [to the township building], I saw two individuals smoking pot outside,” he said. He asked how the township plans to regulate the use of marijuana when it seemingly happens on its own front doorstep.
Davis addressed various concerns of this kind during a PowerPoint presentation that laid out an overview of what the ATC will do and how it will function.
In order to become a registered patient, you must:
- Have a legitimate physician registered with the Medical Marijuana Program
- Be a NJ resident
- Be diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition by a NJ registered MMP physician
- Only designate one ATC
In other words, Davis explained that patients must meet a strict set of requirements prior to using a dispensary, which they are then held to. In addition to this, security will be tight.
“I can tell you, from what I’ve learned, there will be no more secure, regulated, policed building in this township other than maybe this very building [town hall] and the police department, than this building that we propose before you,” said Doyle.
Davis’ presentation stated that there will be a multi-layered security program; armed with an in-house security team, 24 hour third-party security with uniformed guards every day, 24 hour surveillance cameras, a non-climbable fence, and magna lock doors. The bank building on the property is already outfitted with a vault, cameras, and a well-lit parking lot that would serve as the patient services center for the dispensary.
As the hearing was cut short, the site’s security witness, David Nase, was unable to testify further security information.
Despite the potential “demand” for an ATC locally, there was an outcry from a majority of the residents at the meeting against the idea.
The crowd got rowdy, clapping for those at the microphone who shared their similar mindset and shouting at those others who did not. Zoning Board Chairman Harvey Langer consistently interrupted public comment and testimony, demanding respect for fellow residents and the applicants.
Residents Max Flores and Roberto Flecha suggested using alternate site for the dispensary, such as the Pathmark, for fear of it being too close to children in the community.
Some sat quietly in the audience, donning “I support medical marijuana in Brick” stickers on their shirts. One supporter of the proposed dispensary is Elizabeth Ivins. Ivins said she has eight herniated discs in her back and it was only when she started treating herself with medical marijuana 21 months ago that she felt alive again.
“Going into a dispensary is safer than going into the Wawa…those people are your mother, my sister, with cancer, MS, they can’t move,” said Ivins about those who utilize dispensaries.
She is also an educator about the topic at Patients n’ Mind with her daughter Jennifer.
“We have to educate ourselves…This is not reefer madness, this is medicine,” she said.
Although a lot of ground was covered, the hearing was postponed to be completed on November 19.
The applicant has yet to present three more witnesses on the proposal as well as provide time for public comment.
Those who wish to join the conversation can attend the next Board of Adjustment meeting on Nov. 19, 7 p.m., at the Brick Township Municipal Building.