Connect Church in Camps Springs (right) anticipates a new neighbor in JOVA Wellness Center, a company based in Lanham, to open a medical cannabis dispensary. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Connect Church in Camps Springs (right) anticipates a new neighbor in JOVA Wellness Center, a company based in Lanham, to open a medical cannabis dispensary. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

Connect Church runs a summer camp, cares for children during school holidays and most importantly, seeks to save souls.

The community church in Camp Springs that also hosts senior programs prepares for a battle where its potential neighbor could open a medical cannabis dispensary.

“Our issue is not with medical marijuana. Our issue is location,” said James Love Sr., pastor of Connect Church that’s been in Camp Springs for at least six years. “We would be open to a dialogue, but were not giving that opportunity. Many people didn’t know about it until last month.”

The main concern from Love and several residents with the Camp Springs Civic Association stems from zoning.

Prince George’s County Council approved to permit a dispensary to open 300 feet or further from residential properties and at least 500 feet from schools, day care centers and parks.

The council’s vote allows JOVA Wellness Center of Lanham to operate on Allentown Way occupied by several businesses that include a beauty salon, barber shop and check-cashing operation.

Across the state from JOVA stands the two-story Susan Denison Mona Center that opened last month to offer medical, dental and legal services and meals.

A representative from JOVA didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

JOVA remains among 120 dispensaries that received pre-approval from the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, but it’s unclear when full approval would be granted. Some of that entails more analysis of JOVAs business plans, pass an inspection and more background checks of its finances.

According to a document obtained by The Washington Informer, the company will hire an armored car service to transport $5,000 of cash or more to a bank. Although patients would be allowed to make transactions via a debit card, cannabis remains illegal under federal law and therefore a strictly cash business.

JOVA will hire “two trained and licensed security guards from a reputable company to ensure that if a problem arises, the situation will be handled in a way that protects patients and staff.”

Meanwhile, thehe church seeks to operate a day care center. Love said it could take several months to go through the legal process.

It’s unclear whether the church would be able to receive consent from the county since the state already pre-approved JOVA’s application.

County Councilman Todd Turner (D-District 4) of Bowie explained at the council’s last legislative meeting of the year on Nov. 14 that the state regulates the medical cannabis operations. The county has control of business locations through zoning.

Two dispensaries are allowed in each of the state’s 47 senatorial districts.

“We are not in a position to say ‘no’ to these [businesses],” said Turner, one of three council members who voted against the zoning measure. “We need to engage the state in this process.”

Several Camp Springs residents such as Joy Alford said the cannabis industry isn’t a viable business.

“Camp Springs does not need — nor the majority of Camp Springs want — this,” said Alford, who’s lived in the neighborhood for 35 years. “It is a safety issue for our children and our elders. It’s a safety issue for everyone. The majority of people that might use this will not be from Camp Springs.”

Crystal Hughes, owner of Allure Beauty Concierge in Camp Springs, supports medical cannabis so much she not only uses the product as a cream to rub on her back, she also received state approval to help register others who need it.

“This is something people need,” said Hughes, who resides in Baltimore and uses a walker to move around. “People have to drive in D.C., Waldorf, or Baltimore to get [medical cannabis] from Camp Springs. Why not have it there?”

The state commission, which approves companies to receive grower, processor and dispensary licenses, lists how cannabis helps those who suffer from ailments such as chronic pain, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

Besides the medical aspect, County Councilwoman Deni Taveras (D-District 2) of Adelphi gave another reason she approved the legislation with four of her colleagues.

“We need to support our minority-owned business in this field,” she said. “We can at least get some redemption … in how we’ve been treated.”

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Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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