ATLANTIC CITY — Compassionate Care Foundation expects a judge to rule in the next two weeks on its request to prevent the opening of a medical marijuana facility just blocks from its new dispensary on the Boardwalk, said its attorney, Sean Mack.
CCF argues in its brief that the state Department of Health has an obligation to spread the dispensaries throughout the state, under both the state law that legalized medical marijuana and its own prior policies.
“It’s an access issue, not a competition issue,” Chairman of the Board David Knowlton said. “There is no dispensary in Salem, Gloucester, (Burlington) or Cape May counties, so the opportunity to spread these out is right there. Yet they put two within spitting distance. It’s inappropriate.”
MPX New Jersey said in a recent news release it will open the dispensary, called Be., in the first quarter of 2020. Earlier this month, the state Department of Health awarded MPX a permit to cultivate medical marijuana at the company’s Pleasantville facility on Washington Avenue, in a former Press of Atlantic City building.
MPX New Jersey is owned by iAnthus Capital Holdings Inc., of New York City. No one from iAnthus could be immediately reached for comment.
The Health Department declined comment, citing pending litigation.
Mack said the Health Department required geographical diversity be considered in the 2011 first round of applications, when CCF got permission for its Egg Harbor Township growing and dispensing location. But the state didn’t include that requirement in the second round in 2018, in which MPX New Jersey was approved to open in Atlantic City.
CCF has operated a growing facility and dispensary in Egg Harbor Township since 2013. It got state permission in September 2018 to open at 1301 Boardwalk in Atlantic City, under a program to encourage existing dispensaries to open satellites, Mack said. That facility, called The Botanist, opened Saturday.
MPX got permission in December 2018 to open around the corner at 118-120 St. James Place, and CCF sued in early 2019 to stop it. A request for a stay then was denied, Knowlton said, because there was no emergent issue.
“From what we saw and what the review panel was given, they had no idea even where any of the six existing dispensaries were located,” Mack said. Nothing in the review materials indicates the panel knew CCF was proposing to open up a satellite in Atlantic City, he said, “and nothing in the scoring criteria allowed them to take it into consideration.”
The state has said it needs 50 dispensaries to meet statewide demand for the medicinal herb, Knowlton said.
“We have eight now,” Knowlton said. “So having two in one city will only force people to drive farther to get what they need.”
Now that The Botanist has opened and MPX is slated to open soon just .3 miles away, the issue is emergent, so CCF again asked the judge for a stay, Knowlton said.
Mack said the full case allowing MPX to open a dispensary in Atlantic City will likely get a schedule for beginning oral arguments sometime this year.