2012-04-19 / Front Page
Zone change for marijuana cultivation, dispensary OK’d
Two ordinances that pave the way for a medical marijuana facility to be established in Plumsted were adopted by the Township Committee on April 4, setting in motion a change to the municipality’s land use rules.
Two light industrial zones in Plumsted are now permitted to accommodate a state-approved medical marijuana entity that wants to establish a marijuana cultivation site, a marijuana dispensary, or both uses, in town.
The two light industrial zones that were the subject of the committee’s action are on Route 537 on Plumsted’s border with Upper Freehold Township, divided by a pair of rural residential zones. “This [ordinance] will allow [approved entities] to apply if they so desire to [the township] and with the zoning in place,” Committeeman Jack Trotta said. “We wanted to be able to pick where they can actually have a facility.”
Trotta has been a proponent of putting zoning in place that would accommodate a medical marijuana facility. He has said he believes his mother, who died of cancer, could have benefited from New Jersey’s Compassionate UseMedicalMarijuanaAct.
“I watched my mother pass away from cancer and the amount of pain she went through; she could have benefited from this,” Trotta said. “This isn’t just for cancer patients, either. This is not a Democrat versus Republican issue, it’s a people issue, and we need to make sure we have the right regulations in place.”
The new rezoning ordinance states that only one marijuana cultivation site and one marijuana dispensary will be permitted in Plumsted. There is a 10-acre minimum lot size for a cultivation site and a 2-acre minimum lot size for a dispensary.
Looking to avoid a situation in which a facility would be left vacant in the event that the not-for-profit enterprise was no longer viable or is found to be illegal by the federal government, the committee added an amendment that would allow the Plumsted Land Use Board to set an escrow account, a bond or a combination of the two within an application to offset the cost of demolishing any structures and restoring a property to its previous state.
The committee’s adoption of an ordinance that would permit medical marijuana facilities in Plumsted came after several months of debate, not only in Plumsted but in surrounding towns such as Jackson and Upper Freehold Township.
In December, the Plumsted Township Committee adopted an ordinance that prohibited an application from being heard by the Land Use Board if the use being proposed was in violation of federal law.
Growing and dispensing marijuana is not permitted under federal law, but is permitted under New Jersey’s medical marijuana law.
One of the two ordinances that was adopted on April 4 repealed the December ordinance.
“I still think it is unsettled law and until it is settled, I thought the original ordinance we had … was adequate,” Deputy Mayor Eric Sorchik said. “I thought it solved the issue we had at hand.”
As the only dissenting vote on the two ordinances, Sorchik said he believes the state law that created a medical marijuana program has put municipalities that move forward with the program at risk.
“I understand where the committee is going, but in my mind, it’s not about the marijuana itself, it’s about the law and the way it was crafted. We have to pass an ordinance to accommodate a state law, that doesn’t make sense to me,” Sorchik said. “I don’t think there is enough protection for the communities that may end up with this,”
New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act permits people who have certain medical conditions to obtain marijuana from registered dispensaries upon receiving a prescription from a physician.
According to the Journal of Pain, the official scientific journal of the American Pain Society, marijuana has helped with pain management for those individuals who have sustained a spinal cord injury. A study in the journal Neurology suggested that medical marijuana was helpful for HIV patients in regard to the pain they were enduring.