Councilwoman Cindy Matute-Brown hosted a forum about medical marijuana at West Orange High School on Sept. 25, providing the public an opportunity to hear from panelists about the updated state medical marijuana laws and how they will affect zoning laws in West Orange. On the panel was Mark Moon, an attorney for the township; Monica Taing, a doctor of pharmacy; Hugh O’Beirne, president of the New Jersey Cannabis Industry Association; and Charlana McKeithen, executive director of Garden State NORML, a regional chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act in July, thereby increasing the amount of marijuana that patients with a medical card can purchase, removing limits for terminally ill patients and legalizing edible forms of the drug. The act is named after Jake Honig, a 7-year-old Howell resident who died of brain cancer and who used medical marijuana near the end of his life for pain relief.
Medical marijuana was legalized in New Jersey in 2010 by then-Gov. Jon Corzine, and the Jake Honig Act expands the program to include more diseases that qualify patients for a medical card. Moon explained at the forum that because more medical marijuana dispensaries will now be allowed to open, West Orange has to change its zoning laws to allow for them.
“The zoning would have to be adjusted to account for that,” Moon said, describing the four different types of dispensaries. The first sells medical marijuana directly to patients; the second type is the cultivator, which only grows marijuana, the third is the wholesale retailer and the fourth is a combination of the first three. The zoning ordinance, which can be customized by the Township Council, will address where in town dispensaries will be permitted to open, how far away from schools they must be, and consumption zones.