Cannabis dispensary announced it’s opening in this Shore town — but officials haven’t approved it –

EDITOR’S NOTE: NJ Cannabis Insider is hosting a two-day business and networking conference March 9-10, featuring some of the state’s most prominent industry leaders. Early-bird registration is open. Tickets are limited.

A medical marijuana dispensary announced its plans to open at the Jersey Shore earlier this week, a move that would expand access to patients and set another city up to sell to the pending 21 and older market.

The problem: The city claims it did not know about the dispensary’s plans to set up shop.

Breakwater Treatment & Wellness, which operates a dispensary in Cranbury, announced this week it would open a second location in Asbury Park.

But Asbury Park’s mayor John Moor reportedly did not know about the new dispensary until he read a story in the Asbury Park Press, and called the announcement “irresponsible.”

Medical marijuana companies need local approval to open, and cities and towns can block them entirely if they choose.

Asbury Park isn’t unfriendly to the weed business — the opposite is true. Instead, it was Breakwater’s hasty announcement that created confusion.

In March of 2018, Moor sent a letter to Gov. Phil Murphy’s office indicating the city would approve of a medical marijuana operation in the city, if and when the number of licenses increased.

Moor did not respond to an email seeking comment for this story.

The state Department of Health considers such letters to be sufficient for the initial approval of an alternative treatment center, said Jeff Brown, who oversees the medical marijuana program as an assistant health department commissioner.

But to receive its final permit, a business must have all necessary local approvals, including zoning, construction and certificate of occupancy, among others.

Brown said the department has not issued Breakwater a permit for its Asbury Park satellite dispensary.

“The reason we accept blanket statements like the one Breakwater submitted is so towns don’t have to say yes to a particular applicant over another – but can rather note they are generally in favor of [alternative treatment centers] operating within that particular jurisdiction,” Brown said in an email Thursday. “It’s not to absolve the [alternative treatment center] from communicating with the town. It is our expectation that any applicant (for a satellite or otherwise) is in contact with the town in which they seek to locate.”

An email sent to Breakwater seeking comment was not returned.

Garden State Dispensary opened a satellite dispensary in Eatontown in 2020, becoming the first in Monmouth County. Another operated by Zen Leaf, which has one dispensary in Elizabeth, is expected to open this spring in Neptune, according to a company spokesman.

The state has more than 100,000 medical marijuana patients and just 13 open dispensaries.

Medical marijuana dispensaries will get the first opportunity to sell to the legal 21 and older market, but they must first ramp up their marijuana supplies to meet the demand.

And that opportunity will not come until Murphy and the state Legislature reach an agreement on legalizing marijuana in New Jersey. The bill has sat on Murphy’s desk for more than a month as he has urged lawmakers to make changes that would establish uniform civil penalties for underage use.

While it seemed the governor and lawmakers had reached a deal two weeks ago, it fell through suddenly and negotiations have since stalled.

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Amanda Hoover may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @amandahoovernj.

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