WARETOWN, NJ - A medical marijuana dispensary could bring some additional tax revenue into Ocean Township some time in the future. No one has come forward with plans to set up shop just yet – but the business opportunity exists. The township committee approved a zoning ordinance change on Tuesday that permits legal medical marijuana sales in the C-1 general commercial district.

According to Mayor Ken Baulderstone, the zoning change has limitations. A medical dispensary that seeks to open in Ocean Township will be regulated by state law. The local restrictions forbid the cultivation, production or manufacture of medical cannabis onsite.

Members of the community showed up at the committee meeting to voice their disapproval of the zoning change allowing a dispensary to open within the Waretown section of the township.

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“I understand that there are a number of elderly people in the town that use medical marijuana,” said Nick Cafaro, a Waretown resident. “I understand that it would be convenient for them to go to a local dispensary.”

Cafaro said he was concerned that people from other areas would also come into town. He said that larger communities with a greater prevalence of older residents should open their own dispensaries.

Of the six dispensaries in New Jersey, the closest is in Egg Harbor Township.  New Jersey’s Medical Marijuana Program currently services over 80,000 patients of varying ages and conditions.

Ocean Township resident Fred Kuttner that he wasn’t necessarily concerned with the distribution and sale of medical marijuana. He pointed out that recreational cannabis was on the November ballot and that he expected it to be approved. Kuttner also submitted that there are only 5,700 prescriptions for medical marijuana in Monmouth and Ocean counties.

“We have a history of how we want people to perceive Waretown,” Kuttner asserted. “And, I don’t think it ( a medical cannabis dispensary) fits in our town.”

Kuttner expressed his apprehension that allowing a medical dispensary would open the way for patrons seeking recreational marijuana to shop for it in the township.

“The permitted use would only be for someone who has a medical marijuana dispensary license,” explained Township Attorney Christopher Dasti. “That’s what the ordinance says.”

Police Chief Michel Rogalski attempted to clarify the issue further by comparing laws regarding dispensary licenses to those regarding liquor licenses.

“There are establishments that can sell package goods,” explained Rogalski. “There are also liquor licenses for bars where you cannot buy and leave with liquor, aside from the COVID pandemic situation – that changed things.”

The bottom line is that if a medical dispensary comes to town, customers must have a prescription authorized by state authorities. If New Jersey passes a law permitting recreational use, current zoning laws prohibit offering them for sale within the township.

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