Toms River councilman refuses appointment to marijuana committee
Jean MikleAsbury Park Press
TOMS RIVER – Councilman Daniel Rodrick said he will not be part of a committee set up to review whether Toms River should allow marijuana businesses in town.
“I was never asked to be on this committee and I will not serve on this committee,” Rodrick said at a township council meeting. Council President Kevin Geoghegan had appointed Rodrick — who opposes recreational weed sales — and Councilwoman Laurie Huryk — who is in favor of recreational sales — to the committee.
Rodrick said he will not change his mind about recreational marijuana sales, and accused Geoghegan of violating the state’s open public meetings act, or Sunshine Law, by making appointments to the weed committee during an executive session.
But Huryk said the appointments were actually made at a meeting of the township’s land use committee.
“We actually had a meeting of the land use committee,” Huryk said. “We determined who should be on the committee at that meeting.
Appointed to the committee were: Geoghegan, Huryk, township Planner David Roberts, Dawn Aulisi, a substance abuse coordinator at Toms River Regional schools, Toms River police Lt. Eugene Bachonski and Kimberly Reilly, chief of administrative services for the Ocean County Health Department’s Department of Substance Abuse, Addiction and Opioid Dependency.
Also appointed were five residents: Brice Morgan, Pat Healy, Heather Scannell, Doreen Burns and Skip Simon.
Several consultants will also assist the committee in determining if recreational marijuana sales should be allowed in Toms River, and how they should be regulated. They are: horticulturalist Anna Schwabe, financial adviser Kyle Dennerlein, marijuana business owner Saj Khan, and developer Donato D’Onofrio, who is familiar with alcohol sales.
The committee is tasked with producing a recommendation by the council’s July 13 meeting. New Jersey residents approved legalizing recreational marijuana for adults in a November referendum.
In Toms River, 63.7% of voters supported last year’s ballot measure legalizing weed for adults. The council had initially planned to adopt an ordinance barring companies that sell, manufacture or distribute marijuana from operating in town.
After hearing strong opposition from the public, six council members agreed to table the measure and form a committee to look into legalizing weed-based businesses. Rodrick voted against tabling the ordinance and has repeatedly stated that he thinks recreational marijuana firms should be barred from operating in Toms River.
This is the second time the council has tabled a measure aimed at blocking marijuana businesses; a previous ordinance banning weed sales was shelved in early 2018, more than two years before marijuana was legalized in New Jersey.
Seaside Heights, Brick and Lavallette are among the Ocean County towns that have barred weed-based businesses, while South Toms River will permit them to operate. https://6cf68f328b3f929520bff72f16bdb9db.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Municipalities have until August to pass an ordinance either prohibiting or, otherwise, setting up regulations for marijuana-related businesses. Otherwise the businesses will be grandfathered into existing retail and industrial zones.
Rodrick called the appointment of members to the marijuana committee “an illegal act.”
Geoghegan told Rodrick to file a complaint with the state Attorney General’s Office if he feels a law has been violated. Geoghegan said the council has done nothing wrong.
Jean Mikle covers Toms River and several other Ocean County towns, and has been writing about local government and politics at the Jersey Shore for nearly 37 years. She’s also passionate about the Shore’s storied music scene. Contact her: