Bill Thomas is diplomatic when he describes what happened in March when he proposed growing pot and selling it to sick people at a warehouse in Bellmawr. His company, Compassionate Care Foundation, is one of six non-profits that the state of New Jersey has selected to run a licensed medicinal marijuana business.
"The mayor was surprised" when he learned of the plan, Thomas said. Then, the landlord backed out.
In October, Thomas' non-profit focused on an empty LED light factory in Westampton. At first, the mayor and other officials were unfazed and said special permission would not be necessary.
But when a group of residents who live down the road learned of the plan, they packed a town meeting and voiced concerns that druggies and criminals would wander into their neighborhood.
Within weeks, the local Land Development Board rejected Thomas' application to set up shop. He was told his plan needed a formal review and use variance.
But not all of the residents are against the plan. Liz Rainey, who was the president of the Fernbrooke Homeowners Association when the October meeting was held, said some of the residents have no objection. "My position was it's not big deal... There was a legitimate need for this...People running the facility were going to provide certain securities for the neighborhood," she said in an interview.
Since then, she has moved to Delaware - a relocation she said was planned long ago - and is no longer president. The current president, John Filipowski, couldn't be reached for comment.
Rainey said about 30 people attended that meeting. Thomas told them his business would create about 75 jobs and he would give residents a preference. He would have tight security. The mayor said that the business is acceptable in that location, which is zoned for agricultural, light industrial, and business.
But then, Rainey said, "a loud minority" took over the meeting.