State gives #$%$ dispensary $357,000 loan:
In an unexpected move that signals the Christie administration's support for New Jersey's fledgling #$%$ program despite its misgivings about the law, the state Economic Developmental Authority today approved a $357,000 loan to the founders of a medicinal marijuana dispensary in Egg Harbor Township that plans to open in mid-October.
Compassionate Care Foundation Inc. said it would use the money to buy equipment and expand its cultivation space, add 12 good-paying jobs to the seven it has already created, and eventually produce enough medicine for about 1,500 patients a month, said CEO Bill Thomas, formerly a medical researcher. Within 10 years, the dispensary expects to generate about $2.8 million in state sales tax, he added.
The 15-0 vote by the EDA -- an independent authority connected to the Department of Treasury -- "legitimizes this business in the eyes of the public," Thomas said.
"You don't get much more mainstream than the Economic Development Authority,'' said David Knowlton, a founder and chairman of the foundation's board and the President and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, a research and consumer advocacy group. Knowlton was a deputy health commissioner under Gov. Thomas H. Kean and served on Christie's transition team before he took office in 2010. "They are saying this is a mainstream public health issue."
The EDA promotes business and job growth by offering bond financing, loans, business and tax incentives, and real estate development assistance, according to the authority's website
There are about 1,233 registered patients in New Jersey, according to the state health department, and Thomas predicted many more people will sign up now that they are close to opening and are able to serve the entire state if necessary. One dispensary, Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, opened in December and has served about 130 patients numerous times.
"We know there is a demand by patients and this triples our production," Thomas said following the vote in Trenton. "We can go from serving 500 patients a month to 1,500 patients a month and that's huge for the demand."
Before the vote, EDA chief executive officer Michele Brown stressed the loan is not funded by taxpayer money. The authority sought a legal opinion from the Obama administration to ensure there wouldn't be any legal problems because marijuana remains an illegal drug.
The authority agreed to lend the dispensary the money at a 4.65 percent interest rate, to be paid within four years -- coinciding with the end of President Obama's second term. The shorter-than-average term ensures the money is repaid in case the next president holds a different opinion about medicinal marijuana laws, Thomas said.
All six of the nonprofit dispensaries or "alternative treatment centers" selected by the state have struggled to raise money, find a community willing to host them, or meet what some have described as confusing and aggressive requirements set by Gov. Chris Christie, who has made no secret he thinks the law he inherited is vulnerable to abuse. Patients and patient advocates are suing the state over what they describe as Christie's reluctance to implement the law and allow severely ill people to get relief.
After a little more research into why this didn't have more impact on the industry I found that Gov. Christie still needs to sign off on the loan before CCF receives it. Im going to call the EDA on Monday and figure out how long he has to make his decision. 15-0 decision sounds promising it'll be quick.