Curaleaf presented their plan for a new dispensary to the Mount Laurel zoning board and sought exemptions from certain rules.
Curaleaf’s attorney Cheryl Lynn Walters presented their case to the board. Since Walters had so much to explain and many questions were asked, the meeting ran long, and no decision will be made on the dispensary until the board’s next meeting on September 2nd.
Chris Melilo, Senior Vice President of Retail Operations of Curaleaf on the national level, said Curaleaf operates 88 dispensaries in 23 states with 3,000 employees.
Melilo said the Mount Laurel dispensary would be an auxiliary of their Bellmawr site. He added they want to open a third dispensary in Bordentown. There would be no processing there, just selling. Melilo emphasized how it would be secure and have enough space to enforce social distancing. Twenty employees working there in two shifts would be employed with 70 percent working full-time, and 30 percent part-time. That would include seven security personnel of current or retired police or military personnel.
Mount Laurel town planner Joseph Petrongolo said it should be considered that it would be near the border of a residential neighborhood in Evesham. However, zoning board lawyer John Armano Jr. clarified that issues in Evesham are not relevant to decisions made by the board. Evesham has no ordinance on the books regulating cannabis Walters said. Walters argued the location was fine and said she would oblige them and investigate the issue to appease Petrongolo and zoning board Member John Francescone.
“If they have an issue with it, they can take it to court,” said zoning board Member Joe Green.
Luke Flood, who handles real estate for Curaleaf, said the site needs approval for exceptions to rules. He added they had great difficulty finding good sites in South Jersey where their license for more locations is. It is only 800, not 1000 feet from a residential neighborhood. They only plan to use half the building to try to comply. Flood said and have no desire to rent out the remaining part of the building. The site is very large; most of their dispensaries are around 4,000 square ft. It has been used as a gym since 2011.
James Miller (not CMMNJ Board member Jim Miller) argued for Curaleaf that while it is less than 1000 feet, it is not an eyesore. Also, there is a buffer between the neighborhood and the site, and there is no direct road access.
Zoning board member Renee Lecigia asked if any patients ever smoked on their property. Melilo explained carefully how patients understand how this fragile the clinical cannabis program is and, he did not know of any such incident.
Armano noted that for the Mount Laurel Curaleaf dispensary to sell adult-use cannabis, the planning board would have to approve it.
Mount Laurel and a Clinical Cannabis Dispensary
A man named K.C. said he is a clinical cannabis caregiver for a family member praised the Bellmawr facility. But he said many take a long time to get there, wait in line for a long time which leads to a tailgate party atmosphere, even before COVID.
Walters said that the Mount Laurel dispensary would absorb some of the traffic of the Bellmawr, as would other dispensaries as they open.
K.C said he owned the business next door, and they used to tow cars that parked in their lot. He asked that a fence be built to avoid that.
“Is this the right place for it for Mount Laurel?” he asked. K.C. explained some drug treatment is being done next door, as if addicts could walk into a dispensary and get cannabis easily. He complained a dispensary would adversely affect his business.
Janet Canigilia said she lived nearby, and it is indeed easy for people to walk from the proposed site and the residential neighborhood, and it is often done.
“Economics plays a huge part of zoning. I am here today because we are having issues with Curaleaf getting this approval due to economic and zoning issues,”
said Hugh Giordano, an Organizer for the UFCW 152 union, which organizes cannabis workers spoke. He added that the UFCW was having issues with Curaleaf resisting their efforts to better working conditions in their dispensary in Hannover, MA.
However, Walters said it was not relevant, and Armano said they cannot address those issues.