Red Bank Mulls Potential Marijuana Dispensary Zones

September 10, 2018
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Borough Council members mulled over potential locations for marijuana dispensaries at their Aug. 29 meeting, after the governing body indicated it would be open to having a facility under the New Jersey Compassionate Use Marijuana Act. Photo by Natalie Anzarouth.

By Natalie B. Anzarouth |

RED BANK – Now that the borough has indicated it is open to welcoming medical marijuana facilities under the New Jersey Compassionate Use Marijuana Act, borough officials are thinking about where they could potentially be located, if approved by the state.

At the council’s Aug. 29 workshop meeting, the mayor and governing body talked with director of planning and zoning Glenn R. Carter to determine what areas would be appropriate for a dispensary.

“We don’t want it (an Alternative Treatment Center) in any residential zones, that’s No. 1,” Mayor Pasquale Menna said, adding that the council should consider not having these centers within a certain distance of schools, places of worship and daycare/community centers.

The mayor said the borough would use the state’s criteria for determining appropriate zones. And although the mayor does not vote on council issues except in the event of a tie, he said, “I think the logical marriage would be in any commercial area.”

Within state guidelines, Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs) are not permitted within 1,000 feet of a school district, business administrator Ziad Andrew Shehady said, noting the state doesn’t mention places of worship.

Councilman Michael Whelan expressed his concern for determining appropriate distances when there are so many schools and places of worship in the borough. “A thousand feet within RBC (Red Bank Catholic High School) is most of our downtown,” he said. “I think it’s going to be more difficult than we think to find locations in between the different places of worship…and schools,” Whelan added.

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Shehady called on Red Bank RiverCenter’s executive director James Scavone to weigh in on the matter. “The recommendation that came from our board meeting was to basically view ATCs like we would a pharmacy, as a retail establishment,” Scavone said. This would allow a dispensary to open in zones where retail is allowed in the borough.

“Most of our borough is within a thousand feet of a school,” Scavone also noted.

The draft for this ordinance comes after Gov. Phil Murphy took office earlier this year with the initiative of legalizing marijuana in the state and expanding the number of dispensaries or ATCs that could distribute cannabis.

Applications for dispensaries were due to the state Department of Health (DOH) by Aug. 31. If approved, Red Bank would be the only town in Monmouth County to offer ATCs to patients.

Menna clarified the position of the borough, saying, “Again, we are dealing with…alternative medical needs facilities, which are going to be regulated by the state. We are not dealing with the retail consumption and/or distribution of whatever cannabis the state may or may not approve, because we don’t know that. We are only dealing with the alternative medical treatment facilities.”

Residents of the borough did not voice any negative concerns at the workshop meeting during the public comments.

At the close of the discussion, Shehady said, absent any local ordinances which could be stronger than the state, “we would just go with the state’s definition” for determining where ATCs can be located.

Community centers like the YMCA on Maple Avenue could potentially be neighboring a medical marijuana dispensary in the near future.

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This would not bother YMCA member Jack Rafter, who attended RBC and now lives in Highlands.

His position comes from witnessing his mother’s experience with cancer.

“Would it be appropriate to medically help people that are terminally ill? Or who have a condition?” he said. “We’re talking strictly medical. That’s between the doctor and the patient at this point.”

The next council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 12.

This article was first published in the Sept. 6 – 13, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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