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Medical marijuana plans taking shape in S. Jersey

Burlington County could turn out to be the supply center for medical marijuana in South Jersey.

Burlington County could turn out to be the supply center for medical marijuana in South Jersey.

The only two nonprofits licensed by the state to open treatment centers below Trenton have their sights set on Maple Shade and Westampton - with outlets near Exits 4 and 5 of the New Jersey Turnpike, respectively.

On Oct. 12, a zoning hearing in Maple Shade will consider the application of Compassionate Sciences of Long Island to operate a dispensary at 2860 Route 73 North, site of a store called Office Furniture Outlet.

"No production will occur on the site," according to notice of public hearing.

The company is asking for a ruling that the application meets existing guidelines for "professional, medical and business offices" and "retail sales of goods."

The other group, the Mount Laurel-based Compassionate Care Foundation, hopes to start this month converting a a Westampton factory into an operation for growing, processing and dispensing medical marijuana, according to CEO Bill Thomas.

The building, with 50,000 square feet at 120 Hancock Lane, was used to manufacture lighting equipment by Lighting Science Group Corp.

A lease has been negotiated, CCF has been working with the local zoning officials, and no public hearing is scheduled, because no variance is needed, he said.

Since being named as one of South Jersey's two providers, Compassionate Care has checked out about 30 sites, with some deals falling through, including one for Belmawr, Camden County.

"We had some rejections by the landlords, no rejections by towns," Thomas said.

If all goes according to plan, the Westampton facility should be ready for patients by February, he said.

"We expect that in the first year we are going to serve 2,000 patients," Thomas said.

Use varies, with glaucoma patients perhaps perferring to smoke marijuana, while cancer sufferers might tend to add it to baked goods, he said. Lozenges and absorbable lotions - effective in treating spasticity, for example - are expected to be developed as well.

Patients have to go to registered physicians, register with the state, and attend educational sessions. Then they'll be eligible to pick up a maximum of two ounces a month, Thomas said.

CCF, created by medical and nonprofit professionals, will work closely with area medical institutions, and will collect data and demographic information.

"We're actually involved in some very serious research into the outcomes of using the drug," Thomas said. "We're not a bunch of potheads selling marijuana. That's not what this is about."