FLEMINGTON, NJ – Officials here took the first step last night in what could lead to Hunterdon’s first marijuana dispensary.
Borough Council approved a resolution sponsored by Councilman Jeff Doshna supporting applications for an “Alternative Treatment Center,” which is what the state calls a provider of medical marijuana.
Council and the public heard a presentation by Bob Pease and Jonathon Goldrath, who represent Altus New Jersey, LLC, and who plan to seek a state license to dispense the drug.
Mayor Betsy Driver said Altus is not the only provider that has approached officials about opening a dispensary here. She called the resolution “generic. It does not endorse any one provider.”
Altus comprises Standard Farms and Franklin BioScience, who are already licensed to grow, process, and retail marijuana in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado and Nevada.
There are currently five dispensaries in New Jersey, according to the resolution, and “the need for medical marijuana in New Jersey currently exceeds the supply that the existing licensed ATCs in operation can provide … Flemington supports expanded access to marijuana for medical purposes.”
The Mayor said Police Chief Jerry Rotella supports the resolution. The matter is timely because that state is opening a marijuana dispensary licensing application period on July 1.
The matter is personal for Driver.
“There is a lot of research that it can be used to mitigate opioid issues,” she said. She recalled that she had cancer twice and was prescribed “high doses of oxycodone.
“To get me through those two episodes of cancer, I did use cannabis to get on with it,” Driver said. “I don’t smoke anymore.”
Because medical marijuana wasn’t then legal in New Jersey, Driver said she went to Amsterdam for 10 days. She said she “came back pretty clean from it. And it works.”
Council President Michael Harris said he was “somewhat uncomfortable” by the resolution. While he said he was “not necessarily opposed” to it, he said he was opposed to “how it’s being rolled out, how it’s presented” without greater notice.
Harris also asked that given the medical nature of the facility, “Why are we not looking up the road right next to the (Hunterdon) Medical Center?” in Raritan Township.
“When I’m hit with a hard sell, I’m skeptical,” Harris said.
The resolution would confine any such dispensary to the borough's Highway Retail district. In addition to a state license, any dispensary would also require typical Planning Board and site plan approval, and could not be within 1,000 feet of a playground, school or church.
Resident Robert Shore doesn’t support the idea.
“While I recognize the economic stimulus that it may provide, it does run counter to my personal beliefs – that making marijuana readily available will foster abuse,” Shore said. “Marijuana is harmful, addictive, and can be easily accessed through lax prescription controls, and can easily promote unscrupulous medical professionals to prescribe for the most arbitrary symptoms. It is a drug that I believe is more often abused than used for good reason.”
Resident Lois Stewart said she opposed recreational marijuana, which Goldrath said his location wouldn’t offer.
Goldrath also said that the company is seeking a 50- to 80-acre secure site elsewhere in Hunterdon where it hopes to grow marijuana. He hopes to have a decision from the state on the dispensary license by the end of the year, which he said might allow him to be able to open here within nine months.
Harris cast the only dissenting vote on the resolution. Councilpersons John Gorman and Susan Peterson were absent.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to include Councilperson Peterson's absence.