The Prince George’s County Department of Permitting, Inspections, and Enforcement (DPIE) told WUSA9 there was “no legal justification to withhold the permits” from a medical marijuana dispensary in the middle of a battle with a former neighboring church.
Members of Connect Church rallied outside of JOVA Wellness Center in Camp Springs on Saturday.
The medical marijuana dispensary sits next to where the church used to be and is under construction.
"Crime, certainly, is going to be associated with it. A cash-based. Come on. Come on," James Love said.
Connection Church lost its lease in June last year, but church leaders remain concerned because it ran a summer day camp across the street.
"The county has not stepped-up and pulled this permit after we informed them,” Pastor Jonathan Allen said on Saturday.
The Prince George’s County Council passed a zoning bill in 2017 that explains medical cannabis dispensaries cannot be within 500 feet of any children’s daycare, recreation program, before and after school locations, or summer day camps.
JOVA Wellness Center was able to get a permit to build at the shopping center on Allentown Way.
Prince George’s County DPIE oversees permits for medical marijuana businesses, and a spokesperson issued the following statement:
“The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission determines zoning requirements for businesses in Prince George’s County. Based on their approval that the JOVA Wellness Center met all the requirements of CB-103-2017, the Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement (DPIE) issued a building permit to JOVA Wellness in August 2018. Documentation submitted by JOVA Wellness, and a review of available information, showed the facility complied with the requirements of CB-103-2017. On November 29, 2018, DPIE issued a use and occupancy permit to JOVA Wellness to operate the medical cannabis dispensary. There was no legal justification to withhold the permits.”
"One of their attorneys had the nerve to say that these are "pop-up camps. Isn't that what she said? Pop-up camps! We been here 17-years,” Pastor Allen said.
2018 was the first year the camp, named Camp Holiday North, operated outside of the church former church building and the first time it was registered with the state, according to Pastor Allen.
The Maryland Department of Health confirmed the camp was approved to operate between June 18th and August 24th in 2018 at a building across the street from the proposed marijuana dispensary.
The permit of JOVA Wellness was issued after the camp ended.
It remains unclear whether a law was broken if a loophole was found, or what the next steps are in this situation.
Members of Connection Church pan to continue fighting to get the medical marijuana business’ permit removed.