Bridgewater Township Waiting on Further Guidelines from State Regarding Marijuana Legalization and Sales


BRIDGEWATER, NJ - A public discussion on medical marijuana, more properly known as cannabis, took up more than an hour at the Bridgewater Township Council meeting Monday as out-of-town residents pleaded for a dispensary in town and council members said they need more guidelines.

The subject had been broached by out-of-town speakers at the council’s previous meeting March 19, primarily about Bridgewater utilizing its more-or-less centralized location to becoming a potential home for a new authorized medical dispensary for cannabis. Speakers that night pleaded with the council to consider housing a dispensary in town – and it was more of the same during the second discussion, although the council ultimately took no formal action regarding cannabis or toward establishing a dispensary.

Council vice president Matthew Moench said the story started back in January when New Jersey’s new governor, Phil Murphy, made legalized cannabis a staple of his governorship, after making it a cornerstone of his gubernatorial campaign. Moench said he wasn’t sure if Murphy currently had enough votes in the state legislature to get the measure passed, and the councilman also asked if Bridgewater indeed wanted to sell cannabis within its borders.

Sign Up for E-News

As to why the town should entertain the matter of legalized cannabis now, when it was not a state law at present, Moench said the reasons were twofold. The first was to possibly inform public discussion, while the second was concerned with zoning distances, in that the township couldn’t go back and later change zoning, ostensibly to suit or dismiss a particular place.

Putting something on the books now regarding cannabis, said Moench, “protects us (because we) have something on record.”

Moench said he believes it is also a freedom issue, although individuals are still not allowed to grow marijuana in their own backyards, which he said would defeat the purpose of the industry. He added that medical marijuana is a state issue, and that Murphy has made lot of changes to his program recently. 

Moench said township attorney William Savo’s office could provide a memo if the council wished to take action, such as a resolution with no force of law, or ratification of an ordinance like some other towns have already done, with some establishing blanket prohibitions of marijuana, medicinal or recreational.

The council permitted public comments, which entertained no less than a dozen speakers, all of whom live outside Bridgewater. Several, such as Lefty Grimes, Jeff Oakes, Hugh Giordano and Jeff King, had spoken at the previous Bridgewater council meeting to advocate for medical marijuana usage.

Comments ranged from using cannabis to ease various forms of pain and suffering, to it being a safer and more viable alternative to alcohol and other substances. Some emphasized Bridgewater possibly providing another medical marijuana dispensary in a state that currently boasts less than a half-dozen of them, and added that cannabis is growing as a burgeoning and profitable industry.

Council president Christine Henderson Rose said it is an extremely complex subject, and perhaps even two separate issues – with medicinal usage balanced against recreational use – and that the council has to decide where it stands.

Moench thanked all those individuals who showed up or spoke at the meeting.

“There’s some issues to work through,” he said of the subject matter as a whole.

Councilman Filipe Pedroso thanked the speakers for both their advocacy and their respect, and said he was moved by their stories. He added that the situation is not a complicated one for him, and explained that the main issue is what Bridgewater residents want.

Pedroso pointed out that no one from Bridgewater had spoken, adding that he strongly believes town residents don't want a dispensary in town, and said he will support what the residents want.

“Our constituents don’t want the sale of marijuana in town,” said Pedroso, adding that he spoke to Bridgewater residents all the time.

He added that there are many other towns near and around Bridgewater that could possibly do the job.

Moench questioned how to regulate medical versus recreational sales of cannabis, and whether a dispensary would be allowed to sell both. He said that if the town passes a restriction regarding cannabis, it could always relax that stricture later on.

“You can’t zone back out,” he said.

Pedroso said the governing body has a responsibility to be proactive, while township administrator James Naples said Mayor Dan Hayes is waiting on the state law.

Councilman Howard Norgalis told those in attendance that he appreciated them coming a long way to share their stories. 

“There’s a lot more understanding about the issues,” he said.

Norgalis said he could support cannabis that is prescribed by a doctor and distributed at a dispensary, but not a store or something similar where it is sold to be used recreationally.

“I’m more than happy to listen,” he added.

Councilman Allen Kurdyla also thanked those who spoke, and said he is sure that everyone in the audience can think of someone in their own lives that is suffering, and who would have an interest in a local dispensary.

“I’d like to find out what Woodbridge is doing,” he added, home of the he Garden State Dispensary.

Savo said the dispensaries could be authorized, but that towns “still need a license from the state.” He said there is a bill pending to allow a state exemption for cannabis.

Moench said that if the township passes an ordinance that allows distributing cannabis, but then a state law is passed against it, the council could simply go back and change the ordinance.

Rose said she heard the requests for the exploration of medicinal cannabis, and felt that was also the prerogative of the majority of the council. She said she didn’t think she agrees with Pedroso, about what Bridgewater residents might or might not want, and wondered what would happen at the state level.

“I don’t see a lot of activity in Trenton around this issue,” she said.

Rose added that there seems to be no fast-tracking of the topic, and said she wants to see more coming out of the state capital in detail.

Moench said the council could pass a resolution against recreational cannabis usage or sales, or at least draft one.

“I want to see more of the facts,’ said Norgalis.

Kurdyla said he wants to see medicinal usage prioritized over recreational, to “separate the two.”

Rose said the council will continue to gather information regarding cannabis usage, to see how it fits “into the culture of the town.” She also encouraged the advocates to continue their work.

Sign Up for E-News to get top stories delivered daily to your inbox. 

Download the FREE TAPinto App!  Click here for Android - Click here for iOS to get news as it is happening.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News


Upcoming Events

Sat, April 21

Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, Bernardsville

NJ Audubon: Les Photos de Bernie at the Wayrick ...

Arts & Entertainment Green

Sat, April 21, 9:30 AM

Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, Bernardsville

NJ Audubon: Nature-Infused Yoga Winter/Spring ...

Green Health & Wellness

Sat, April 21, 10:00 AM

Somerset County 4-H, Bridgewater

4-H Spring Carnvail

Arts & Entertainment Community Calendar

New Jersey Association of School Librarians Urges BRRSD to Keep All Librarians

April 18, 2018

To the Editor:

The following letter was sent to the Bridgewater-Raritan school superintendent as well as members of the school board from the New Jersey Association of School Librarians (NJASL).  

As the statewide organization for school library media specialists, the organization advocates for strong school library programs for all students.  NJASL is disheartened to learn that a ...

Car Fire in Wendy's Parking Lot Deemed Not Suspicious, Bridgewater Police Say

April 20, 2018

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Bridgewater Township Police responded to a car fire in the parking lot of Wendy's, on Route 22 East April 9, but the fire was not deemed suspicious, according to a report.

According to the report, an unoccupied 2003 Infinity G35 caught fire. A 2010 Honda CRV, which was parked next to it, was also damaged in the fire.

North Branch and Green Knoll fire both ...

Hidden in Plain Sight Program to Provide Tips on Recognizing Drug Use in Teens

April 18, 2018

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Bridgewater-Raritan High School, on Garretson Road, will be hosting "Hidden in Plain Sight," a program to help parents recognize the signs a child might be using drugs or alcohol.

The program will be held April 24 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium. There will be a light dinner at 6:30 p.m.

DEA Agent Tim McMahon will speak to parents and students about the signs to look ...

Police Investigate Bias Incident in Montgomery, Seek Help from Public

April 20, 2018

MONTGOMERY, NJ - Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson township Police Director/Capt. Thomas Wain are asking the public for help in the investigation of what is being considered a bias crime.

Detectives assigned to the investigation released that the following information based on the preliminary and ongoing investigation, which continues to evolve as investigators interview ...

'The Sting' shimmers and shakes at Paper Mill

‘The Sting ‘slithers and shakes at Paper Mill Playhouse


MILLBURN, NJ – In a premiere production of “The Sting,” Harry Connick Jr. commands the Paper Mill Playhouse stage in Millburn.

Based on the sensational Paul Newman/Robert Redford film in 1973, the 1930s plot centers on a con game and gambling, sometimes on a train between New York and ...

Bateman Bill to Require Training, Licensing for Pet Groomers

April 15, 2018

TRENTON, NJ - Sen. Christopher "Kip" Bateman (R-16) will introduce legislation to increase protections for family pets by requiring pet groomers to be properly trained and licensed following the deaths of three dogs in five months at different New Jersey pet salons.

“It is sadly far too common for us to read of dog grooming deaths in the news,” said Bateman.