Medical marijuana dispensary opens in Neptune Township

Medical marijuana card holders at the Jersey Shore will now have another option to buy legal marijuana.
Dozens of employees and local dignitaries celebrated the opening of the ZenLeaf shop on Route 66 in Neptune Township Friday.
It is the company's 74th dispensary in the country and its second in New Jersey. The dispensary is only the second option for people in Monmouth and Ocean counties to buy legal medical marijuana.
Just a few months ago, Smashburger closed the store. ZenLeaf saw an opportunity and quickly moved in, transforming the spot from burgers to marijuana with hope to join the recreational sales to come.
As some shore towns move to ban businesses such as this, Neptune Township opened its doors to welcome ZenLeaf to the community. Deputy Mayor Nicholas Williams said the opening of this location will prompt other communities to change their minds.
"I think it will open up people's eyes. As you well know, all of the discussions with the governor over the last couple years about the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana, I think people will start noticing," Williams said.
Patients like John Gray said they no longer have to travel close to an hour away to get much-needed medicine.
"I had a motorcycle accident five years ago, so I got screws in my shoulder. It's hard to sleep and eat, so the medical marijuana actually helps me out," Gray said.
The dispensary created more than 30 local jobs and transformed an empty storefront in just six months and added a new anchor store for the strip mall complex.
"It's an amazing feeling during the pandemic to be able to open up the job market for about 30 employees. We just promoted two employees during a pandemic, and created about 30 jobs here and we hopefully are going to be creating more," said ZenLeaf General Manager Heather Finley.
Executive Vice President Anthony Marsico said the location will be vital in serving medical marijuana to people in the Monmouth and Ocean area.
"Extremely underserved market. Over a million-person population in Ocean and Monmouth County. We'll be one of the few dispensaries serving that patient base," Marsico said.
ZenLeaf looks to expand its workforce to more than 70 once all the hurdles have been cleared to offer recreational marijuana at the location in Neptune Township.