Marijuana plan appears to be on hold in Manalapan

Do not make plans to buy medical marijuana on Route 33 in Manalapan in the very near future.

The state’s plan to license and operate a medical marijuana dispensary in a commercial complex on Route 33 west near the state highway’s intersection with Iron Ore Road appears to be on hold for the time being.

Initial claims that the marijuana dispensary could be up and running by the summer seem to be unlikely at this point, according to Manalapan health officer David Richardson.

In March, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) announced the licensing of six nonprofit alternative treatment centers (ATC) for the state’s medicinal marijuana program.

One of the sites selected for an ATC is in Manalapan. The successful applicant for that location is Breakwater Alternative Treatment Center Corp., Ocean Township.

New Jersey’s other ATCs would be in New Brunswick, Middlesex County; in Bellmawr, Camden County; in Secaucus, Hudson County; in Montclair, Essex County; and in either Burlington County or Camden County.

According to information provided by the state, the mission of Breakwater ATC is to “create a safe, compassionate, comfortable and controlled environment where qualifying patients can receive laboratory tested medical cannabis at a reasonable price.”

Recent developments, however, call into question the state’s plan to proceed with a medical marijuana program as required by a law signed by former Gov. Jon Corzine on his final day in office in 2010. Specifically, recent news reports have indicated that the state attorney general is requesting guidance from the U.S. attorney general on certain elements of the New Jersey law, including the question of whether the individuals who are selected to grow marijuana legally in accordance with the state’s program could face federal prosecution for growing marijuana illegally.

At a meeting of the Manalapan Township Committee that was held days after Manalapan was announced as one of the sites for a medical marijuana dispensary, Richardson told the members of the governing body that he would like to hold a public forum at some point to air the details of the proposed facility.

The health officer reiterated that position last week, but said no date has been set for a public forum.

“The township is still committed at this time to holding a forum that will foster an opportunity for the community to learn more about the use of marijuana as a medical resource and some of the details about the dispensing operation planned here in Manalapan,” Richardson said.

“It is expected the forum will have presentations from the medical community and the ownership-management of the dispensing facility.

“There have been sporadic conversations on the scheduling of this forum. The latest thoughts on this are that the township will wait to hold the forum, for the time being, until the state furnishes further information.

“The feeling is that it is most appropriate to wait until the state has fully vetted the rules and the projects begin to take the first steps toward local approvals for their operations. It is unlikely the facilities will be operational in the summer as originally projected.

“To the best of the township’s knowledge there has been no further consideration by the ownership-management of the dispensing facility to move away from its intended location.

“Again, to my knowledge no plans, nor further details, have been submitted to the township besides some of the documents that supported their original application to the state,” Richardson said.

Mayor Andrew Lucas noted that the Route 33 site that has been targeted for the Manalapan ATC is not zoned for that use. He said the applicant will have to go before the Zoning Board of Adjustment to request a variance for the proposed use.

An application before the zoning board would automatically require a public hearing.

Andrew Zaleski, one of the directors of Breakwater ATC, told Greater Media Newspapers in March that the organization’s team is putting together information about the proposed operation and will provide that information to the public in the near future.

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