5/27/20 By DAN ULLOA
The Verona Township Council is considering allowing a clinical cannabis dispensary within its city limits.
At a virtual council meeting held last week, the council heard a presentation from Devra Karlebach, CEO of Green Thumb Industries (GTI) NJ which seeks to open a dispensary in town.
She was introduced by well-known cannabis attorney Paul Josephson who explained GTI and the clinical cannabis dispensary process by which they won their first license which opened in Paterson opened under the name “Rise”. They can seek two additional licenses according to Josephson for auxiliary locations.
If the council approves, the clinical cannabis (or medical marijuana) dispensary would be located at 30 Pompton Avenue in Verona. It was formally the location of a Chase Bank. People noted that it has its own parking lot which is a good merit in congested Essex County.
She explained the company, including some charity work they have down, including $70,000 in donations largely in Paterson. In addition, their team was introduced along with experience. The former Sheriff of Bergen County Leo McGuire is their head of security.
She gave a thorough presentation, explaining medical marijuana, the nature of the company, and what the dispensary would be like, including extensive security precautions. Karlebach emphasized how eager GTI is to comply with regulations and enforce them, including not allowing anyone to smoke on-premises.
They would not have cultivation onsite there since they would receive products from the Paterson location. Products would include oils, edibles, tinctures, creams, and pre-rolled joints which are popular among the elderly.
She noted they were the first clinical cannabis dispensary to open up from the 2018 round of applications.
The proposed location would have up to 25 full-time and part-time employees. She said they paid living wages paid to employees with to patient care specialists receiving $16 an hour, plus benefits.
Karlebach said a study done by the University of Wisconsin at Madison said money spent at a dispensary is usually spent locally, which is good for when seeking to boost the local economy.
GTI is a publicly-traded Multi-State Operator (MSO) in 12 states with 44 dispensaries. They are based in Chicago.
Clinical Cannabis Dispensary Discussions
The proposal drew a range of comments from Verona residents. Some argued in favor of a dispensary, citing individuals they knew who had benefited from clinical cannabis.
A Verona resident and Marine veteran named Brett D’Alessandro spoke out in favor of the dispensary. He said it helped him cope with PTSD far more than the seven drugs he was first prescribed.
“These medications were just a band aid on a on an infected wound and not a solution,” D’Alessandro said. He lamented the elaborate process involved in becoming a patient. As a patient of GTI in Paterson, he spoke well of them.
Another resident said another clinical cannabis dispensary would service a large demand in North Jersey for clinical cannabis and help deal with the opioid crisis.
While someone brought up the idea that cannabis gummies could entice children, another person said children buy gum from Walgreen’s where Oxycontin is regularly sold without public outcry.
One resident thought it might increase crime.
It was noted the proposed property has been vacant for some time now. If approved, the dispensary would likely open in early 2021. The clinical cannabis dispensary issue will be debated and voted on at the next council meeting on June 8th. The town council is officially non-partisan.
A measure for an ATC dispensary was withdrawn in nearby Milburn in Essex County in February after it caused an uproar from residents who recited a litany of old prohibitionist arguments.
The Medical Marijuana Program is said to have recently reached 77,000 patients.
A report from the National Association of Realtors said that a clinical cannabis dispensary does not in fact lower the prices of homes.