In New Jersey, the Mount Laurel Township Council heard a proposal to open a medical marijuana distribution center in the town. The proposal did not receive a explicit vote by the council, but it did move for more research to be done before the matter reconvenes at a later date.
Compassionate Sciences, is the New Jersey non-profit organization that brought the proposal to the council. The plan proposes that a possible but not definite location for the “alternative treatment center” (ATC), the state’s term for the facility, would be located in an industrial complex on Fellowship Road, baring zoning approval. Based on this location and the population in the area, it is estimated that the ATC would service about 1,000 patients throughout the South Jersey area. The 10,000-square-foot facility would function not only as a medical center, but also as an agricultural center, meaning that the ATC would grow, prepare and sell marijuana all in the same building.
As in other states’ legislations, The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act stipulates that medical marijuana may be prescribed by a doctor in cases where a “debilitating medical condition” that is approved by the state Department of Health and Senior Services exists. The Compassionate Use Act was signed into law by former Gov. Jon Corzine on his last day in office. Patients who receive medical marijuana must be a registered member of a specific ATC, and doctors who prescribe it must be registered in the state of New Jersey.
The Compassionate Use Act sanctioned the creation of six ATCs throughout the state, conveniently locating two each in the north, central and southern portions of New Jersey. To date, two other ATCs have been approved; one in Egg Harbor in the southern region, and one in Montclair to the north. Officials have been hesitant to approve the facilities in some local towns.
The major objections in Mount Laurel are security. Fellowship Road is considered a high traffic, higher crime area in southern New Jersey. Councilwoman Lynn Solomon said that putting an ATC there has the potential to increase theft and other crimes in the area and that it was not a good idea to “push it further.” A detailed security plan was not prepared for the township to examine, but Compassionate Sciences said they intend to employ guards “24/7” and have security cameras on the premises as part of their security operation.
Council members were also concerned about how the ATC would affect the town’s youth. Councilman Dave D’Antonio, is aware of the drug abuse problems occurring in high schools in the area, and believe that a medical marijuana facility in the area would promote the use to young minds. Mayor Jim Keenan and Deputy Mayor Linda Bobo both expressed concerns of future changes to the Compassionate Use Act. Primarily they are concerned that the restrictions may become more lax and the definition of what a “debilitating medical condition” may change, making marijuana accessible to more people.
The proposal remains open, given that further research is done on zoning requirements, security measures and the legislation and legal matters encompassing medical marijuana in New Jersey.
The council will revisit the issue at a later date.