Egg Harbor Township’s medical marijuana facility could be open by the end of the month, after receiving its final permit from the Department of Health on Friday.

Compassionate Care Foundation Inc. began cultivation in June, and now just needs to notify the department when the product is ready for testing before it can begin scheduling patients.

If all goes well, that could be by the end of the month, said Tom Prendergast, general manager of Compassionate Care.

“That was our final hurdle,” he said. “We needed the permit to get harvesting so we can package the medicine and start treating people who really need it.

"This permit marks another significant step forward in the implementation of New Jersey's Medicinal Marijuana Program," Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd said.

State Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, who sponsored the medical marijuana bill, said he was glad patients can now get help in South Jersey.

“I’m very happy that, finally, patients are going to have the opportunity to get some relief right here in Egg Harbor Township, in the heart of Atlantic County, and not have to either go way up north or go on the street corner to get relief,” Whelan said. “Within a matter of weeks some people in our region will be able to get the medicine they need to relieve some of their pain and suffering.”

He pointed out that New Jersey’s medical marijuana law is one of the most strict in the nation.

“This is for people who are seriously and, in some case, literally deathly ill,” Whelan said. “It’s been determined by their doctor that medical marijuana might be one way to relieve their pain and suffering.”

The permit also clears the way for a $357,000 Economic Development Authority loan, Prendergast said.

“We’re excited,” he said. “Now we’re ready.”

Eligible patients were able to begin choosing Compassionate Care as their alternative treatment center in August. It costs nothing to sign up, and is not limited to geographical location, but patients can only register at one center. They will be scheduled in the order in which they signed up.

Patients who have chosen Compassionate Care as their designated center will be contacted directly by them for an appointment.

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Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.