Monmouth County shut out as location for medical marijuana dispensary


State officials have denied applications from several entities that were seeking to open and operate an alternative treatment center (ATC) in Eatontown.

In New Jersey, an ATC is a location where medical marijuana is sold to individuals who have certain medical conditions and have been prescribed that course of treatment.

Instead, in this latest round, the New Jersey Department of Health announced on Dec. 17 that six entities – none in Monmouth or Ocean counties – have been selected to apply for permits to open new ATCs.

Two applicants were chosen for the north (Phillipsburg and Paterson), central (Elizabeth and Ewing) and south (Atlantic City and Vineland) regions of New Jersey.

More than 140 applications were submitted in this round, including 45 applications from entities seeking to operate an ATC in central New Jersey, according to the Department of Health.

In Eatontown, Borough Council members provided a letter of support for three entities that were seeking approval to operate an ATC in the community. In total, representatives of five entities approached the council asking for support to open an ATC in Eatontown.

Council members said they would only provide a letter to the entities they believed were well prepared to operate such a business. They denied requests for support from two entities.

When the medical marijuana issue came up earlier this year, Eatontown Mayor Dennis Connelly made it clear he was not in favor of hosting an ATC.

On Dec. 19, two days after state officials revealed their selections for six new ATCs, Connelly said he was not surprised the entities seeking to operate a medical marijuana dispensary in Eatontown were left off the list.

“I am not surprised at all,” he said. “I spoke with many people about the entities that were seeking approval in our town and I was advised their chances were slim to get approved, mostly because of the size of the companies and the sizes of the facilities in the proposals.

“Most of the companies that were seeking approvals in our town did not own the property in their applications and that, too, probably played a role in not being selected.

“I am happy Eatontown was not chosen as a host community mainly because our mayor-elect and council gave the green light to this industry without any prior planning or community input,” Connelly said. 

Before receiving approval to cultivate and distribute medical marijuana, the operators of the six new chosen dispensaries will be required to pass background checks, provide evidence of a dispensary location, provide evidence of municipal approval and comply with all regulations under the Division of Medical Marijuana, according to a press release from the state.

“Six very strong applicants were selected, including minority-owned and women-owned businesses,” Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal said. “We will meet with them early next year to refine their timetable for growing product and opening their doors.

“We are committed to an equitable expansion of supply to meet growing patient demand, and these new locations will reach patients who currently have to travel longer distances to obtain the therapy,” Elnahal said.

At present, there are six alternative treatment centers operating in three regions of New Jersey. Those medical marijuana dispensaries are in Egg Harbor Township and Bellmawr (south), Montclair and Secaucus (north) and Woodbridge and Cranbury (central).

During the time when state officials indicated they were planning to expand the number of dispensaries, elected officials in Red Bank publicly said they would be willing to permit an ATC to operate in the borough. However, no entity sought approval from the Department of Health to establish an ATC in Red Bank in this round of expansion.