A day after state officials passed over the application of Jersey Shore Therapeutic Health Care, a proposed medical cannabis dispensary that would be located on Adamston Road, its owner says she will keep the idea alive.
Jersey Shore THC was not one of six dispensaries licensed by the state Department of Health on Monday. Despite Ocean County having the second-largest number of medical cannabis patients in the state, neither the proposed Brick dispensary nor any others in the Shore area were licensed. Instead, the state opted to license dispensaries in Phillipsburg, Paterson, Rahway, Ewing, Atlantic City and Vineland – nearly all of which already have a dispensary closer than Brick.
“Our area is woefully underserved,” said Anne Davis, co-owner of Jersey Shore THC. “For that reason, we will be applying next round.”
Mayor John Ducey said at a township council meeting Tuesday night that Jersey Shore THC’s application before the township’s zoning board has not been withdrawn. A date is still pending since officials need to find a large venue available on the same night when board members and the applicant’s attorney and team of professionals can be present. A hearing on the application last month was flooded by groups of neighbors in opposition to placing the dispensary in a residential zone, as well as medical cannabis advocates who said the facility would be a plus, rather than a detriment, to the adjacent neighborhood. Officials had eyed a meeting in January but it now may be pushed back another month.
The state Department of Health issued a statement Monday that vaguely listed the criteria by which they chose which prospective facilities to license, though it appears the process took into account the gender and racial status of applicants.
“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 that currently have to travel longer distances to obtain the therapy.”
It is not known how many other dispensaries, known as Alternative Treatment Centers, or ATCs, were proposed in Ocean County specifically. The agency said it would release copies of all applications “next year,” but did not provide a date.
The 146 applications were reviewed by a six-person committee consisting of four DOH representatives and one each from the Departments of Agriculture and Treasury. Their expertise included medical marijuana, ATC regulation, lab testing, plant science, diversity and procurement. Prior to scoring the applications, committee members received “implicit bias training” from the state’s Chief Diversity Officer “to ensure an impartial selection process.”
“This was an objective, data-driven selection process,” the statement went on to say. “The committee scored the applications and then DOH chose the top scorers in each region.”
It is not known when the next round of licensing applications will be accepted. Under a package of bills under consideration by the legislature that is currently pending before the state legislature, 34 additional ATCs would be licensed separately from recreational dispensaries.