MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — A vacant seafood processing plant on Indian Trail Road could see new life as a medical marijuana facility under a proposal from a Massachusetts-based company.
Representatives of INSA, a cannabis company that grows, processes and sells its own product, will present plans to the township committee at its next meeting, 6 p.m. Monday at Township Hall, 33 Mechanic St.
As part of the licensing process in New Jersey, the company wants a show of support from township officials.
So far, they seem receptive to the idea. In a statement announcing Monday’s presentation, Mayor Tim Donohue cited the potential economic benefits.
“We know folks will have many questions and concerns regarding this innovative proposal for our town,” Donohue said. “As a governing body, we share these concerns. So far, we have been impressed with INSA, their principal owners and the very public-conscious way they do business. The potential benefits, in job growth and economic activity, are certainly worth exploring.”
Committeeman Michael Clark, Business Administrator Kim Krauss and local police officials traveled to Springfield, Massachusetts, for a firsthand look at the company’s production and retail facilities there.
“It was a worthwhile trip,” Clark said. “The local officials described a great working relationship with INSA. Law enforcement has had no problems related to INSA’s operations. The company’s facilities were very secure and well managed.”
According to Donohue, police Chief Christopher Leusner contacted the police chief in Springfield to ask about the company’s relationship with law enforcement there.
“It’s not my job to sell these guys,” said Donohue, but he said the company has a solid reputation. He said a real estate agent contacted the township about the potential use for the vacant La Monica Brands plant, which has been closed for several years.
“We’ve been trying to target these blighted sites in the township,” Donohue said. “We’ve certainly had our eye on this one.”
Mark Zatyrka, CEO and co-owner of INSA, said the company began in Massachusetts and has a facility in central Pennsylvania, near Scranton. If the company receives a license for the Middle Township facility, it would be its first in the state.
The proposal calls for a 30,000- to 40,000-square-foot cultivation and processing facility at the site, as well as a dispensary for those with New Jersey medical marijuana cards.
Township officials stressed the high security planned for the site, along with the potential for jobs, saying pay will range from $14 to $25 an hour, or $50,000 to $150,000 for salaried positions.
Donohue said the decision to support a medical marijuana facility is easier for him than it would be if it were for recreational marijuana, which seemed set for approval in New Jersey earlier this year. A plan to approve recreational marijuana fell short of votes, despite the backing of Gov. Phil Murphy. Supporters now expect a referendum on allowing adult use in 2020.
“That’s not anything that we’re looking at, at this time,” Zatyrka said of recreational marijuana.
In the meantime, legislators approved a new medical marijuana bill in June, allowing 28 new facilities, easing the process for obtaining medical recommendations and increasing the maximum amount that can be purchased each month.
The closest dispensary to Middle Township is the Compassionate Care Foundation in Egg Harbor Township. That’s a round-trip drive from Cape May Court House of a little more than an hour.
There is also a proposal under consideration for a medical marijuana facility in Dennis Township. On July 9, Emmett Vandegrift of Evergreen Curative and his partners spoke to Dennis Township Committee about supporting a facility there. The committee did not take any action.
Vandegrift had approached Middle Township about the proposal last year and also spoke to the Lower Township Council. He told Dennis Township officials that Middle Township was not interested in hosting a presentation.
Vandegrift, of Dennisville, did not respond to a request for comment.
New Jersey approved medical marijuana in 2010. Since its implementation, six facilities have begun growing and distributing marijuana throughout the state, with six more going through the approval process.
About 51,000 people have medical marijuana cards in New Jersey, according to state reports.