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State OK to Sell Marijuana Takes Bellmawr by Surprise

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BELLMAWR – Bellmawr officials were shocked Tuesday to find the borough on a state-issued list of future medicinal marijuana distribution sites.

Turns out the surprise was for good reason, as officials with the North Jersey company awarded a permit to run the "alternative treatment center" have yet to lease a facility or go through any of the steps to get a business permit in the borough.

William Thomas, president and CEO of Compassionate Care Foundation Inc., said the nonprofit indicated in its application to the state it is interested in a site in Bellmawr. But Thomas said the company also is open to other locations in South Jersey as well.

"We are not committed to Bellmawr and Bellmawr is not committed to us," he said.

Reached Tuesday morning, Bellmawr Mayor Frank Filipek was at a loss as to how the borough had been named in a release issued Monday as one of six locations selected for a medicinal marijuana center.

Until news outlets across the state listed the locations Tuesday, Filipek said he had no idea the borough was even considered. Ultimately contacted by the nonprofit Tuesday afternoon, Filipek later said he had agreed to at least meet with officials from Compassionate Care in early April.

Without saying he would support either a grow or distribution site in Bellmawr, Filipek said he would keep an "open mind" until he learned more on how the site would be operated.

"I'm not going to close the door right now," he said.

The six marijuana treatment centers -- which will feature two locations in the southern, central and northern parts of the state -- will be the first since the state in 2010 approved letting chronically ill patients be prescribed the drug.

Aside from the Compassionate Care Foundation, New York-based Compassionate Sciences Inc. was also awarded a permit to run a center in the southern part of the state, designated as Burlington County and all points south.

While the state release indicated Compassionate Sciences would locate its center in either Burlington or Camden county, a spokesman for the company said officials there haven't ruled out any of the southern counties yet.

"We are going to do a more detailed site survey that will identify potential locations in the coming weeks," said Andrei Bogolubov.

Both Bogolubov and Thomas likened the business of producing medicinal marijuana as an operation similar to the many pharmaceutical companies already in the state.

Both explained their facilities would be secure as well as contribute jobs and revenue to local communities. All companies were required to include a security plan in the application process.

"We're looking for a town in southern New Jersey who would like to have 100 jobs and that would welcome us to lease one of their empty buildings," Thomas said.

"We think we could convince them that we would be a very good citizen."

Local reaction in Bellmawr was mixed Tuesday.

Raymond Santiago, 51, said he feared the system would be taken advantage of and that marijuana will end up in the wrong hands.

"That's scary," Santiago asserted. "That's just going to open the door (to abuse.)."

But 23-year-old Anthony McCreavy said backs bringing a center to Bellmawr.

McCreavy said a friend's mother was given a prescription for marijuana for a chronic illness.

"It's good for those people that need it," McCreavy said. "I don't think it's a bad thing bringing it here."

Under state law, medical marijuana can only be obtained by those who have a prescription from a doctor providing ongoing care who has registered with the state and can attest to a patient's debilitating medical condition.

News Hawk- Jacob Husky 420 MAGAZINE
Source: courierpostonline.com
Author: George Mast
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Copyright: courierpostonline.com
Website: State OK to sell marijuana takes Bellmawr by surprise
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