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DENNISVILLE – Dennis Township Committee heard a presentation at its July 9 meeting by representatives of Evergreen Curative LLC.

The purpose was to “educate the public and answer any questions and address any concerns” about medical marijuana.

Emmett Vandegrift opened by noting, “Medical marijuana has life-changing effects in pain relief and is a good alternative to the explosion of opiates and their abuse. There is a high demand for medical marijuana in Cape May County by nursing homes and potentially from all the tourists we see each year.

"Coming from Dennis Township, I would like to see our company build a facility here to cultivate, process and dispense medical marijuana in one vertically integrated license from the state. I want to help people and help the local economy,” he continued.

Vandegrift was joined by his business partners Helen Lloyd, who described herself as having a degree in microbiology and is working as a local realtor, and Rob Wunder, who said he has “a good job and I work 40 hours a week because I can control my pain with medical marijuana.”

As background to the status of legally distributing medical marijuana in the nation, Vandegrift explained that 25 states allow medical marijuana use.

“In New Jersey in 2010, Gov. (Jon) Corzine initiated a medical cannabis program, which stagnated under Gov. (Chris) Christie. Gov. (Phil) Murphy has expanded access and legislation approved July 2, just a week ago, expands the program even further.

"The closest facility we have in our area is in Egg Harbor City and if they do not have the flower, tincture, oil or edible you need, then you have to drive to Bellmawr which, as you can imagine, is a long ride for a sick person,” he continued.

Joining the Evergreen Curative representatives were two officials from the United Food and Commercial Workers union who stated that “the economic stimulus of good-paying jobs that are year-round, not seasonal would be a big boost to Dennis Township.”

They conceded, however, that there was no guarantee Dennis Township residents would have to be hired for jobs, such as the armed security guards and cultivators required.

The presentation included:

* The appearance of the facility is like a large warehouse.

* Security to be tight with armed guards and no one allowed in without a medical need.

* Revenue sharing is based on a formula set by the state at 2% of retail sales.

Lloyd mentioned prescriptions previously had to be renewed every three months and now, only annually with no requirement to have a relationship with the prescribing doctor. Because of the cost of the cannabis, about $500 per ounce, which is not covered by insurance, there is little incentive to frivolously use or abuse the program, she stated.

She acknowledged that most medical cannabis products are not FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved and there is, so far, anecdotal evidence which cannabis helps a patient, including with pain management, and no accepted medical studies indicate that.

The Evergreen team and union officials pressed committee to move forward with approval of their proposal for Dennis Township to host the facility since to apply for one of the state’s limited licenses, there is a requirement to establish a community-host relationship within an upcoming deadline. When asked for a show of hands as to how many among the attendees supported a facility, practically all hands were raised and none were against.

Mayor Zeth Matalucci made clear, “Your presentation was advertised as only for information and there was no commitment that we would take any action tonight. We need to hear from all 6,000 Dennis residents, not just the ones who showed up tonight.

"In fact, a couple of years ago, when we gave you (Vandegrift) the opportunity to come to committee to make a case to put this issue to residents for a non-binding referendum, you did not appear. I realize as you have said that you needed to take your child to the emergency room but someone could have represented you.

"We are concerned with financial aspects since money earned may not be deposited in a regular FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.) approved bank given federal law, and we also have zoning questions that can only be answered by your legal counsel and you have not brought with you an attorney.

"And we have concerns as to how the federal government including DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) would view such a facility given that medical marijuana is not approved at that level. So we cannot take any action tonight."

To contact Camille Sailer, email csailer@cmcherald.com.

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