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Pleasantville planners OK site for medical marijuana facility

PLEASANTVILLE — The city is now one step closer to having its own medical marijuana facility after the Planning Board unanimously gave Superior Grow Lab preliminary/final site plan approval Tuesday night to redevelop the site of the former Press of Atlantic City building at 11 Devins Lane.

“It’s just another step forward for us,” said property owner James DiNatale. The company is waiting to hear from the state whether it will receive one of two new licenses for alternative treatment centers in South Jersey. An announcement is expected to be made on our about Nov. 1.

According to DiNatale, Superior Grow is the only dispensary hopeful in the region with redevelopment approval from their city so far.

For nearly two and a half hours, DiNatale and other representatives for Superior Grow fielded questions from both the Planning Board and the public on the property and its effect on the community.

One of the concerns city officials had was the possibility of the site being a dispensary for recreational marijuana. Recreational marijuana is not legal in New Jersey, though there is legislation in Trenton that would decriminalize possession.

“This is not a recreational marijuana facility,” said George Miller, an Atlantic City attorney who has been involved with the project since its inception in January. “It’s strictly medical.”

Miller lost his daughter five years ago to melanoma and has advocated the use of medical marijuana to treat terminal illnesses ever since. He said he raises more than a half-million dollars a year for cancer research.

A major concern for the public was the safety of putting such a location along a school bus route.

“What if someone walks out of your building, smokes their medical marijuana in your parking lot, gets in their car and crashes into a school bus with my daughter in it?” said T.J. Hines, a Pleasantville resident who lives next to the site. “Who’s liable there?”

DiNatale assured him outside use of medical marijuana is illegal, though he added the distributor cannot be held liable for illegal actions taken by the consumer.

City officials were concerned about anyone being able to walk in and get marijuana under the guise of medicinal use.

“You’re not getting through that front door without a prescription,” said Charles Endicott, an engineer for Superior Grow. He added the site will only be responsible for growing and distributing medical marijuana. Authorization via prescription must be obtained by a doctor.

To address safety concerns, Superior Grow will have a number of different security assets. In addition to a 10-foot-high fence around the perimeter of the property, they will have a security detail on patrol overnight. Any visitor of the site – whether it is a customer or otherwise – will be required to wear a badge upon entering the building and will be monitored while inside.

Superior Grow Lab will even make sure their trash is safely discarded. According to Endicott, the site will have no outside receptacles and will instead haul their trash into a van that will head straight for a waste facility.

The Planning Board’s approval came with some minor revisions. They would like additional parking to more adequately house the 56 employees working at any given time, in addition to visitors and customers. They also requested that the exterior be more decorative, as bare walls “make them a target” for graffiti, according to the board.

DiNatale, whose company bought the property for $25,000 in December 2017, said construction could begin the very next day if they’re approved for an alternative treatment center license from the state. Their target opening is April 2019.

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