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WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange Township Council tabled an ordinance that would update the zoning provisions in town to allow the legal operation of medical marijuana dispensaries at its Jan. 7 meeting, wanting more information from attorney Mark Moon and more time to work with township officials on the ordinance.

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, a member of the township’s legal department, explained at a public forum on the topic in September that, because more medical marijuana dispensaries will now be allowed to open, West Orange has the opportunity to change its zoning laws to allow for them.

“We had a very busy agenda the past couple of months with all that we passed in December, and I know I was one to neglect getting some questions answered and information from Mr. Moon,” Council President Michelle Casalino said at the meeting. “Also, some of our directors have a little more due diligence to do.”

The ordinance as it is currently written prohibits dispensaries advertising, selling or offering to sell paraphernalia designed for drugs, including recreational marijuana, but allows the sale of medical marijuana. It says that dispensaries would not be permitted within 3,500 feet of another medical marijuana facility or within 1,500 feet of a school, and no medical marijuana facility would be allowed as a home occupation. Security measures are also outlined in the ordinance, which Councilwoman Cindy Matute-Brown said Moon modeled after similar ordinances in surrounding towns. She pointed out at the meeting that there is no deadline by which the ordinance would need to be passed.

“I spoke to Mr. Moon today and there is no time frame with which they’re working,” Matute-Brown said at the meeting. “It’s just something he didn’t want to get lost in the mix.”

Councilwoman Susan McCartney said she was expecting the ordinance to go through the planning department and Planning Board before it reached the council. Before the ordinance is passed, she is also looking for more information regarding the locations where dispensaries would be allowed to open.

“I think it was back in October when we had the public presentation, though when we left, I had more questions than answers,” McCartney said at the meeting. “There’s still a lot of questions with regard to this ordinance.”

Casalino agreed, saying she wants to work with Board of Education members and hear more input from the township department heads before voting on the ordinance. There is no date set for when the council will reintroduce the ordinance. 

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