IN RE: THE INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH RESEARCH AND ABUNDA LIFE CENTER. IN THE MATTER OF THE ABATIN WELLNESS CENTER. IN THE MATTER OF GARDEN STATE MEDICAL MARIJUANA ASSOCIATES, INC.
DOCKET NO. A–0069–11T3A–0102–11T3A–0103–11T3A–0069–11 and A–0102–11) and argued (A–0103–11) February 11, 2013 – Decided August 22, 2013
-- August 22, 2013
Bronstein, Gewirtz & Grossman, LLC, attorneys for appellant Institute for Health Research and Abunda Life Center (Neil Grossman, of counsel; Ralph Fucetola, on the briefs).Pringle Quinn Anzano, PC, attorneys for appellant Abatin Wellness Center (Michael P. O'Connell, on the brief).Jeffrey S. Chiesa, Attorney General, attorney for respondent New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (A–0069–11 and A–0102–11) (Melissa H. Raksa, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Kimberly E. Jenkins, Deputy Attorney General, on the briefs).Charles X. Gormally argued the cause for appellant Garden State Medical Marijuana Associates, Inc. (Brach Eichler, LLC, attorneys; Mr. Gormally, of counsel and on the briefs; Paul M. Bishop, on the briefs).Michael J. Kennedy, Deputy Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (A–0103–11) (Melissa H. Raksa, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel; Kimberly E. Jenkins, Deputy Attorney General, on the brief).
Each of the appellants here 1 applied for permits to operate alternative treatment centers (ATCs) to cultivate and distribute medical marijuana pursuant to the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (the Act), N.J.S.A. 24:6I–1 to –16. They appeal from the final decisions of the Department of Health and Senior Services 2 (the Department), see N.J.S.A. 24:6I–7(e), and present challenges to: the authority of the Department to act before the formal adoption of regulations to govern the selection process, the selection process itself, and the constitutionality of the Act. We affirm.
N.J.S.A. 24:6I–7 grants the Department the authority to accept applications and issue permits for the operation of ATCs, setting forth certain standards for the application process. N.J.S.A. 24:6I–7(a), which authorizes the Department to accept applications, states, in part, that the Department “shall seek to ensure the availability of a sufficient number of alternative treatment centers throughout the State, pursuant to need, including at least two each in the northern, central, and southern regions of the State.” In addition, subsection (a) requires the first two ATCs in each region to be nonprofit entities.3 The Act mandates that the issuance of a permit requires a finding by the Department that “issuing such a permit would be consistent with the purposes of this act[.]” N.J.S.A. 24:6I–7(e). The Department is also required to approve or deny an application within sixty days of receipt of a completed application. Ibid.
The Act was enacted on January 18, 2010 4 and was originally scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2010, L. 2009, c. 307, § 19. However, at the Department's request, the Legislature amended the Act to delay the effective date to October 1, 2010. See L. 2010, c. 36, § 1. It is evident that this delay was not intended to preclude any action by the Department to implement the objectives of the Act because the Act explicitly states the Department “may take such anticipatory administrative action in advance [of the effective date] as may be necessary to effectuate the provisions of [the Act].” L. 2009 c. 307, § 19.
Consistent with its authorization for “anticipatory administrative action,” the Legislature manifested an intent to accelerate the adoption of regulations necessary to implement the Act. Although N.J.S.A. 24:6I–16(a) directed the Commissioner to promulgate rules and regulations pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), N.J.S.A. 52:14B–1 to –25, N.J.S.A. 24:6I–16(b) explicitly authorized the Commissioner to adopt interim regulations:
Notwithstanding any provision of [the APA] to the contrary, the commissioner shall adopt, immediately upon filing with the Office of Administrative Law and no later than the 90th day after the effective date of this act, such regulations as the commissioner deems necessary to implement the provisions of this act. Regulations adopted pursuant to this subsection shall be effective until the adoption of rules and regulations pursuant to subsection a. of this section and may be amended, adopted, or readopted by the commissioner in accordance with the requirements of [the APA].
On November 15, 2010, the Department proposed regulations to govern the discharge of its obligations under N.J.S.A. 24:6I–16. 42 N.J.R. 2668(a) (Nov. 15, 2010).
On December 13, 2010, the Legislature passed a concurrent resolution declaring that the draft proposed rules were inconsistent with the purposes of the Act. S. Res. 130; Assemb. Res. 151. The resolution stated the draft proposed rules “unnecessarily delay[ed] consideration of adding ․ medical conditions or treatments” to the definition of “debilitating medical conditions” in the statute. The resolution also said that because the draft proposed rules would create two functional categories of ATCs, one of which was prohibited from dispensing marijuana directly to patients, the rules could “unreasonably limit the supply of, and reduce qualifying patients' access to, medical marijuana [.]” Finally, the resolution stated the draft proposed rules established “an arbitrary limit on the permissible levels of delta–9–tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that medical marijuana may contain.” The resolution identified no provisions of the draft proposed rules regarding the application and selection process as being inconsistent with the intent of the Legislature.
The Department then published new rules in February 2011. 43 N.J.R. 340(a) (Feb. 22, 2011). These rules were adopted without any amendments on November 23, 2011, and became effective on December 19, 2011. 43 N.J.R. 3335(a) (Dec. 19, 2011). There were no changes to the regulations that established the standards and processes for the Department's issuance of Requests for Applications (RFAs) to operate ATCs and evaluation of applications, which are set forth in N.J.A.C. 8:64–6.1 to –6.5.
On January 14, 2011, before the new rules were published or adopted, the Department issued an RFA to establish and operate ATCs for the cultivation and distribution of marijuana as part of the Medical Marijuana Program (the Program).5 The RFA referenced N.J.A.C. 8:64 and the “Rules Related to the Medicinal Marijuana Program,” and even provided a link where the rules could be obtained. The Department posted the proposed rules on its website on February 3, 2011.
Among the categories of information required, the RFA instructed applicants to “clearly designate the geographic region for which it [was] applying.” The information required as to the proposed location of the ATC included the specific address, if already identified, and a “legible map ․ of the ATC service areas by Zip Code to be served by the ATC.” If “a precise address” for the ATC had not yet been determined, the applicant was required to “identify the general location[ ] where the [ATC] would be sited, and when.”
The Department received thirty-five applications from twenty-one applicants. The proposed rules identified three regions, northern, central and southern.6 Garden State Medical Marijuana Associates, Inc. (Garden State) submitted an application for the northern region. The Institute for Health Research and Abunda Life Center (Abunda) submitted an application for the central region. Abatin Wellness Center (Abatin) submitted an application for each of the three regions.
Each application was reviewed by a five-member review committee, comprised of three employees from the Department, one employee from the Department of Agriculture, and one employee from the Department of Community Affairs. The members were required to certify that neither they nor their immediate families had any financial interest or personal bias concerning any of the applying entities or principals of those entities. Each committee member reviewed and scored each application; the scores were then combined. The scores for all applicants ranged from 258 to 1289. On July 21, 2011, the Department issued its Final Agency Decisions denying the applications of each of the appellants.
Compassionate Care Centers of America Foundation, Inc. received the highest score of all applicants and was granted a permit for the central region. The second applicant chosen for the central region was Breakwater Alternative Treatment Center, Corp., which was ranked fourth among all applicants with a score of 1262. In comparison to the two applicants selected for this region, Abunda received a score of 427, the second lowest score of all applicants. Abatin, which had applied for all three regions, received a score of 902, placing it fourteenth among all applicants.
The greatest competition was among applicants for the northern region. One of the permits was issued to Foundation Harmony, which had the second highest score overall (1287). Garden State had a score of 1246, which resulted in a fifth ranking overall. Garden State identified its intended location as Secaucus, the same municipality identified by Foundation Harmony. The Department issued the second permit for the northern region to Greenleaf Compassion Center (Greenleaf), which identified its intended location as Montclair. Greenleaf received a score of 1237, placing it sixth overall.
The substance of the decision letters the Department sent to each of the appellants is the same. The Department noted it received thirty-five applications from twenty-one applicants in response to its January 14, 2011 request, and that several applicants had applied to operate facilities in multiple locations. Out of the thirty-five ATC proposals, the Department issued permits to two applicants per region, for a total of six ATCs.
The Department explained that it had determined that the “need to ensure an adequate supply of medical marijuana [was] an important component of the purposes of the [Act],” and used this consideration as a guidepost in making its selections. Accordingly, the Department decided that “no one applicant should operate more than one ATC[,]” to limit the probability that more than one facility would experience difficulties at the same time, and to ensure the collaboration of more operators. The Department also stated,
since geographic diversity would help ensure an adequate supply of medicinal marijuana through accessibility, [it] determined that it would be imprudent to issue permits to applicants who intended to locate in or near the same city.
In conclusion, the Department stated that after reviewing the applications “in light of the requirements of the RFA, the cumulative scores generated” by the five-member review committee, and “in accordance with the purposes of the [Act],” it denied the applications.
On December 15, 2011, the Department issued “amplified” Final Agency Decisions to each of the appellants pursuant to Rule 2:5–1(b). Again, the substance of the decisions is virtually identical. The Department revealed the “top seven scoring applicants” in the State and their scores. In the letters to Abatin and Abunda, the Department noted their scores, which fell well below those of the top seven applicants.
The Department then explained its selection process. Because the fewest high scoring applications were received for the southern region, those applicants were selected first. The Department next selected two applicants for the central region, and finally considered the applicants for the northern region. The Department noted that “several of the highest scoring applicants” in the northern region “intended to locate in Secaucus.” The Department explained that because Foundation Harmony—the second-highest-scoring applicant in the State—was “the highest scoring applicant for the Northern Region that had not yet been selected for another region,” it was selected for the Secaucus location. The Department then explained how it decided between Garden State and Greenleaf in selecting the second ATC for the northern region:
Taking into account the need for geographic diversity to improve patient access, the Department determined not to select the next highest scoring applicant, [Garden State], as the second Northern region ATC because [Garden State] also proposed to locate in Secaucus. The Department does not believe that locating two ATCs in the same municipality to serve the seven-county Northern region is in the best interest of the public. Accordingly, the next highest scoring applicant for the Northern Region, [Greenleaf], was selected with a proposed location in Montclair.
The Department again concluded by saying that after fully reviewing each application “in light of the requirements of the RFA, the cumulative scores generated by the review committee, the selection methodology discussed [in the decision,] and in accordance with the purposes of the [Act],” the applications had been denied.
Abunda presents the following arguments in its appeal:
ARBITRARY AND CAPRICIOUS DENIAL OF PERMIT APPLICATION FOR WHICH APPELLANTS WERE OTHERWISE QUALIFIED.
DUE PROCESS OF LAW AND PROTECTION OF THE EXPRESSIVE ASSOCIATION RIGHTS OF THE APPLICANTS.
FAILURE OF THE WINNING APPLICANTS TO IMPLEMENT THE PUBLIC POLICY FAVORING COMPASSIONATE USE IN AN ATC SETTING.
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PUBLIC POLICY FAVORING ALTERNATIVE TREATMENT CENTERS.
Abatin presents these arguments for our consideration:
THE FINAL AGENCY DECISIONS OF THE RESPONDENT ARE SUBJECT TO REVIEW AND ARE ARBITRARY AND UNREASONABLE.
A. THE ACT CREATES A RIGHT OF DIRECT APPEAL TO THE APPELLATE DIVISION FOLLOWING A DENIAL OF AN APPLICATION.
B. THE RESPONDENT'S DENIALS AND AMPLIFIED DENIALS ARE ARBITRARY AND UNREASONABLE.
THE RESPONDENT'S ACTIONS ARE IN CONTRADICTION TO BOTH THE ENABLING AND IMPLEMENTING STATUTES.
A. THE RESPONDENT VIOLATED THE 90 DAY REQUIREMENT FOR ESTABLISHING REGULATIONS UNDER THE ENABLING STATUTE.
B. THE RESPONDENT VIOLATED THE RULEMAKING PROCESS BY RULING DURING THE PENDENCY OF THE PROCESS UNDER THE IMPLEMENTING STATUTE; THE ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURES ACT.
Garden State raises these arguments in its appeal:
THIS COURT HAS JURISDICTION TO REVIEW THE DEPARTMENT'S FINAL AGENCY DECISION DENYING GARDEN'S STATE [SIC] APPLICATION TO OPERATE AN ALTERNATIVE TREATMENT CENTER.
THE DEPARTMENT'S DENIAL OF GARDEN'S STATE [SIC] APPLICATION TO OPERATE AN ALERNATIVE TREATMENT CENTER WAS ARBITRARY AND CAPRICIOUS, WAS NOT SUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL, CREDIBLE EVIDENCE AND DID NOT FOLLOW THE LAW.
A. THE DEPARTMENT'S DECISION TO GRANT GREENLEAF'S APPLICATION TO OPERATE AN ALTERNATIVE TREATMENT CENTER IS ARBITRARY AND CAPRICIOUS AND IS NOT BASED UPON SUBSTANTIAL, CREDIBLE EVIDENCE.
B. BY RELYING UPON SELECTION CRITERIA NOT INCLUDED IN THE RFA TO DENY GARDEN STATE'S APPLICATION TO OPERATE AN ALTERNATIVE TREATMENT CENTER, THE DEPARTMENT ACTED IN AN ARBITRARY AND CAPRICIOUS MANNER AND DID NOT FOLLOW THE LAW.
C. BY FAILING TO ARTICULATE THE PUBLIC INTEREST SERVED BY GRANTING GREENLEAF'S APPLICATION THE DEPARTMENT ACTED IN AN ARBITRARY AND CAPRICIOUS MANNER.
Our role in reviewing the Department's decisions is limited. In re Stallworth, 208 N.J. 182, 194 (2011). Unless we find the Department's decision to be “arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable,” or “not supported by substantial credible evidence,” we will affirm. Ibid. We are not bound by an agency's determination of purely legal issues. Natural Med., supra, 428 N.J.Super. at 270. However, “we generally defer to the interpretations of a state agency of the statutes and implementing regulations it administers, unless the interpretation is ‘plainly unreasonable[.]’ ” Ibid. (quoting In re Election Law Enforcement Comm'n Advisory Op. No. 01–2008, 201 N.J. 254, 260 (2010)). We have observed that such “deference is particularly appropriate ‘when the case involves the construction of a new statute by its implementing agency.’ ” Ibid. (quoting In re Freshwater Wetlands Prot. Act Rules, N.J.A.C. 7:7A–1.1 et seq., 238 N.J.Super. 516, 527 (App.Div.1989)).
Abatin does not challenge the Department's substantive evaluation or scoring of its applications. Instead, it contends that the Department's decision was necessarily arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable because the selections were made before the Department formally adopted regulations regarding the application process. We disagree.
Citing N.J. Soc'y for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals v. N.J. Dep't of Agric., 196 N.J. 366 (2008), Abatin argues that the Department's actions cannot meet the applicable test for reviewing regulatory action, which requires us to determine whether the decision violates the legislative intent, whether there is evidence to support the decision, and whether the agency clearly erred in reaching its decision. Id. at 384–85. Abatin states that “[a]gency actions contrary to, inconsistent with, or beyond the authorization of an enabling statute cannot be sustained.” Abatin states that the Department was required by N.J.S.A. 24:6I–16(a) to promulgate rules pursuant to the APA, and that it was not permitted to make selections prior to the effective date of these regulations “based on policies, guidelines, and informal action posted on its website.” (citing Pressler & Verniero, Current N.J. Court Rules, comment 8.3.2 to R. 2:10–2 (2013)). Abatin argues that, as a result, the entire review and selection process, in which it participated without objection, must be declared void.
Abatin's argument that the actions of the Department prior to the adoption of rules lacked statutory authorization might have some currency but for the fact that the statute authorized the Department to take such action. As we have noted,
[T]he Act does not require formal adoption of regulations as a condition precedent to requesting proposals or applications to operate [ATCs]. The Act expressly provides for the Commissioner “to take such anticipatory administrative action ․ as may be necessary to effectuate the provisions [of] this act.”
[Natural Med., supra, 428 N.J.Super. at 265 n.8.]
Abatin does not question the fact that the statute delegated both the authority and the duty to accept applications, evaluate them, and issue permits accordingly. The Act identifies the goals of the legislation to be satisfied in the selection process and states the Department shall issue a permit “if [it] finds that issuing such a permit would be consistent with the purposes of this act[.]” N.J.S.A. 24:6I–7(e). The Act provides no specific procedure for the Department to use in assessing whether the issuance of a permit would be so consistent. That significant aspect of the delegated duties is left to the Department's discretion. In Natural Med., supra, we observed that the Department has discretion under N.J.S.A. 24:6I–7(b) and (i) “to determine the kind and amount of information necessary to process permit applications and to regulate the ATCs.” 428 N.J.Super. at 263. Not only does the Act direct the Department to propose rules and regulations to effectuate the purpose of the Act, N.J.S.A. 24:6I–16(a), it explicitly authorizes the Department to “take such anticipatory administrative action ․ as may be necessary to effectuate the provisions of [the Act],” L. 2009, c. 307, § 19, including the proposal of interim regulations before regulations are formally adopted in compliance with the APA. N.J.S.A. 24–6I–16(b). The words of the Act itself thus plainly show that the Department was given “wide discretion in selecting the means to fulfill the duties” delegated to it and “flexibility ․ to select those procedures most appropriate to enable [it] to implement legislative policy,” Texter v. Dep't of Human Servs., 88 N.J. 376, 383–85 (1982), even before rules were adopted pursuant to the APA. See also Deborah Heart & Lung Ctr. v. Howard, 404 N.J.Super. 491, 503 (App.Div.), certif. denied, 199 N.J. 129 (2009).
Because the Department acted here in the exercise of its statutorily delegated duties, its decision is entitled to a strong presumption of reasonableness. Moreover, that presumption is enhanced when, as here, the Department has been delegated discretion as to how it accomplishes the delegated tasks. In re Application of Holy Name Hosp. for a Certificate of Need, 301 N.J.Super. 282, 295 (App.Div.1997). In exercising its duties and discretion, the Department formulated an RFA that reflected the Legislature's goals and explained the standards to be applied in evaluating the applications. Although the Legislature found the initially proposed regulations inconsistent with the Act's purposes, it identified no discord with the rules and regulations regarding the application and selection process, and those rules remained unchanged in the regulations that were adopted. The process employed by the Department in evaluating the applications was fair and reasonably calculated to serve the Act's purposes. The Department's decision to deny Abatin's application was adequately supported by its evaluation, which scored Abatin fourteenth out of all twenty-one applicants. There is, therefore, no basis to disturb the Department's decision.
In its appeal, Abunda argues that the denial of its application was arbitrary and capricious. It contends that the Department's process was flawed because the applicants were ranked without adequate due diligence. This argument lacks sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion, R. 2:11–3(e)(1)(E), beyond the following brief comments. As we have discussed, the Department was delegated the duty to accept and evaluate applications and was accorded discretion in the manner in which it discharged this duty. Its resulting decision is entitled to our deference if supported by evidence in the record. Following a comprehensive and reasonable review process, Abunda received the second lowest score of all applicants, substantially lower than the two applicants who were issued permits in the central region. In addition, the five-member panel noted severe deficiencies in Abunda's financial planning, safety measures, ability to have a continual and adequate supply of marijuana, and financial capabilities. The decision to deny Abunda's application was amply supported by the evidence and will not be disturbed.
Abunda also argues that the Act is unconstitutional because it impermissibly infringes upon a patient's right to privacy by requiring the patient to obtain medical marijuana from a licensed ATC. We need not discuss whether Abunda has standing to assert this argument, because it is entirely lacking in merit. Marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled dangerous substance, subject to criminal penalties under both federal and state statutes. 21 U.S.C.A. §§ 812, 841; N.J.S.A. 24:21–5, 2C:35–5. There is no constitutionally guaranteed right of access to marijuana. See, e.g., NORML v. Bell, 488 F.Supp. 123, 132 (D.D.C.1980); State v. Nugent, 125 N.J.Super. 528, 534 (App.Div.1973). Accordingly, this argument fails.
Garden State argues that the Department acted arbitrarily and capriciously in denying Garden State's application, which was the second-highest-scoring application in the northern region, in favor of the next highest-scoring applicant, Greenleaf; in considering criteria not included in the RFA in making its decisions; and in failing to articulate the “public interest” it sought to serve by denying Garden State's application in favor of Greenleaf's. We disagree.
The Department's decision entailed a choice between two highly ranked applicants for the northern region that was heavily influenced by their proposed locations. On this point, Garden State contends that Greenleaf did not comply with the RFA's requests because it failed to meet a mandatory requirement of the RFA that the applicant identify a general location for its proposed ATC. This criticism is factually inaccurate. Although Greenleaf did not propose an exact location like Garden State, Montclair was adequately identified as its general location. Greenleaf stated in its application that it was “working with real estate leasing agents, attorneys and the Township of Montclair to secure properly zoned and municipally approved facilities[,]” and that it had already received the support of Montclair's mayor. It further represented that “[n]one of the proposed locations [it had] identified [were] located within a drug-free school zone.” Greenleaf attached to its application a ten-mile radius “zip code service map indicating the areas [its ATC would] service” and complied with all other requests for information. There is, then, no basis to fault the Department for selecting an applicant that failed to furnish all information required by the RFA.
Garden State also faults the reasoning for the Department's decision. In so doing, it relies heavily upon cases that review the award of public contracts, which strictly limit the awarding entity's discretion. This reliance is misplaced.
“The long-standing judicial policy in construing cases governed by the Local Public Contracts Law [ (LPCL) ] ․ has been to curtail the discretion of local authorities by demanding strict compliance with public bidding guidelines.” Meadowbrook Carting Co., Inc. v. Borough of Island Heights, 138 N.J. 307, 314 (1994) (quoting L. Pucillo & Sons, Inc. v. Mayor of New Milford, 73 N.J. 349, 356 (1977)). The guideline set forth in N.J.S.A. 40A:11–4(a) for the award of bids leaves little room for discretion, requiring the public entity to award the contract to the “lowest responsible bidder.”
In contrast, the Act does not shackle the Department to specific standards for assessing applications. To the contrary, as we have noted, it provided the Department with considerable discretion to act in furtherance of the goals of the Act. Thus, the fact that Garden State received a marginally better score than Greenleaf does not place it in a footing equal to the “lowest responsible bidder” in the LPCL context and render the selection of Greenleaf arbitrary and capricious.
Similarly, the omission of specific language regarding geographic diversity in the RFA does not render consideration of that factor unreasonable. The concept that geographic diversity would serve the legislative intent is reflected in the Act itself. N.J.S.A. 24:6I–7(a) states, in part, that the Department “shall seek to ensure the availability of a sufficient number of alternative treatment centers throughout the State, pursuant to need, including at least two each in the northern, central, and southern regions of the State.” Accordingly, although the RFA did not require applicants to identify specific locations, recognizing that applicants may not be operational, the RFA did require each applicant to “clearly designate the geographic region for which it is applying” and a map of zip codes the ATC would serve. It is evident from these mandatory requirements that the proposed location of the ATC would be evaluated, at least in part, with respect to the population it could serve. In light of the legislative directive to “seek to ensure the availability of a sufficient number of alternative treatment centers throughout the State,” N.J.S.A. 24:6I–7(a), the Department's consideration of geographic diversity and its premise that locating two ATCs in the same municipality would not serve the Legislature's goal were neither arbitrary nor capricious. Moreover, although Garden State argues that the Department's decision may be invalidated because it failed to articulate public interest, it is sufficient that its decision served the Act's purposes.
Garden State also argues that the Department's selection of Greenleaf was arbitrary and capricious because Garden State had a “much larger service area” and a greater “[a]bility to meet the overall health needs of qualified patients” as contemplated by N.J.A.C. 8:64–6.2(a)(3). It listed 143 zip codes that it could service and stated that its facility's location could “conveniently service up to 50% of the New Jersey population.” This argument, which fails to acknowledge that Garden State would compete with Foundation Harmony for the same patient population, asks us to weigh the evidence and arrive at a different result than the Department. However, as we said at the outset, our appellate review is limited. This court “may not substitute its own judgment for the agency's, even though the court might have reached a different result.” Stallworth, supra, 208 N.J. at 194 (quoting In re Carter, 191 N.J. 474, 483 (2007)).
Having reviewed the arguments presented by each of the appellants in light of the record and applicable principles of law, we conclude that the Department's decisions were not arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable and that they had adequate evidential support.
1. FN1. These back-to-back appeals are consolidated for purposes of this opinion.
2. FN2. The Legislature recently changed the name of the Department of Health and Senior Services to the Department of Health. L. 2012, c. 17, § 93 (approved June 29, 2012).
3. FN3. In Natural Med., Inc. v. N.J. Dep't of Health & Senior Servs., 428 N.J.Super. 259, 270 (App.Div.2012), we rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of the requirement that the first two centers be nonprofit entities.
4. FN4. Although it plays no role in our decision, we note that Abatin erroneously states that the statute was enacted in January 2009.
5. FN5. The Department posted a Frequently Asked Questions page of the Department's website. One of the questions asked why the submission date (February 14, 2011) preceded the date on which the Department's proposed regulations were to be published in the New Jersey Register (February 22, 2011). The Department responded that “the RFA was issued prior to the regulations being published” “[i]n order to expedite the program[.]”
6. FN6. The northern region included Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Sussex and Warren counties; the central region included Hunterdon, Middlesex, Mercer, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset, and Union counties; and the southern region included Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem counties.