Third Ocean County Town Plans To OK Recreational Weed

File Photo

  WARETOWN – As South Toms River and Lakehurst await state approval for recreational cannabis businesses, a third Ocean County town also wants in on prospective tax dollars.

  What makes the Township of Ocean (Waretown) unique is the municipality already has a medical marijuana dispensary in the process of setting up shop.

  As far back as last summer, authorities revealed that a company named Justice Cannabis Co. planned to provide access to medical marijuana patients in a standalone building. The dispensary will face Route 9 behind the empty building formerly occupied by Ocean First Bank in the Waretown ShopRite Plaza.

  According to Diane Ambrosio, Business Administrator/Municipal Clerk, Justice has posted the requisite bonds and is back to working on construction of the new facility.

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  Ambrosio anticipates that township leaders will endorse actions taken by the medical marijuana dispensary should they also apply for a recreational license.

  Like many other municipal authorities, Ocean Township leaders nixed letting recreational weed businesses until the state clarified guidelines.

  At the April Township of Ocean Committee meeting, government leaders introduced two separate ordinances regarding cannabis businesses within the community.

  “Ordinance 2022-9 repeals the ordinance that was put in place not allowing cannabis in the Township of Ocean,” explained Mayor Ben LoParo. “Now that the state committee has put the rules in place, the Township of Ocean wishes to allow businesses that meet the zoning requirements in Ordinance 2022-10.”

  If put in place, licenses for recreational weed businesses would be available in each of the six classifications identified by the state. This includes cultivation, manufacturing, wholesale sales, distribution, retail and cannabis delivery for businesses providing courier services for consumer purchases.

  The second cannabis ordinance, 2022-10, amends the township’s zoning map in order to establish cannabis use overlay zones and provide associated zoning requirements.

  Changes to this law affect two separate areas in the township that are part of the Environmental Conservation Zone districts. The ordinance creates a cannabis use overlay zone in the town center, specifically by the ShopRite Plaza, Waretown Shopping Plaza and one another location. 

Construction has started again at the medical marijuana dispensary to be opened on Route 9 in Waretown. (Photo by Stephanie A. Faughnan)

  Both ordinances will be sent to the planning board for review and comment. Residents will have the opportunity to provide commentary at the public hearing for the proposed local law changes at the meeting on May 17th.

  Dr. Shawn Denning, Jr., who serves as president of the local board of education, said he was speaking in that capacity when he approached the dais to speak to township leaders at their most recent meeting.

  “Now that we’re allowing marijuana in town, before we get into tax money,” said Denning. “Will you consider creating an ordinance to give tax money to the schools, which we need desperately?”

  Denning acknowledged that he did not think cannabis businesses would bring in an extraordinary amount of tax revenue. However, a reduction in school state aid has resulted in a dire situation for the district – one that will result in a ballot question to exceed the two percent cap on school tax.

  Township leaders did not respond to Denning’s request.

  “Once the ordinances are in place, we will put out RFPs (Requests for Proposals),” Ambrosio said. “The companies will need to submit business plans before the town proceeds to submit endorsements to the state of New Jersey.”