None of the six medical marijuana dispensaries currently operating in New Jersey are located in Monmouth County, but that could soon change. Ocean Township officials voted unanimously in early July to move a proposed change to the town’s zoning laws forward. The new zoning law would allow a medical marijuana dispensary to open in a commercial area designated C-1. The public will be given the opportunity on to weigh in on the proposed change during a Township Committee meeting scheduled to take place on Aug. 11.

The Ocean Township mayor may have anticipated public opposition to the measure when he said in a recent interview that the medical marijuana industry is strictly regulated in the Garden State by the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission. He also pointed out that medical dispensaries are not permitted to cultivate marijuana plants or manufacture products containing THC.

The proposed change to the township’s zoning laws appears to be an attempt to attract new business to the area. A senior official said recently that no business has approached the township with a plan to open a medical marijuana dispensary. Far more marijuana-related businesses could open in New Jersey in the years ahead if voters approve a November ballot measure that would legalize the recreational use of the drug.

Zoning laws, environmental regulations and land use rules can make opening or expanding a business difficult in New Jersey, and this is especially true when the company offers or plans to offer a product or service that divides public opinion. Attorneys familiar with the state’s commercial real estate laws may help business owners to navigate the bureaucratic process and avoid common pitfalls that could delay their applications for weeks or even months. Attorneys might also advocate on behalf of businesses during zoning board meetings and file appeals if their variance applications are denied.