Marlton Diner, former Lahn real estate office, could become weed shops

EVESHAM – The family owners of an amusement park in Mount Laurel and a country club in Cherry Hill want to offer another form of relaxation – a weed shop.

Evesham’s planning committee recently pushed the proposal forward after Randy Lahn and Alex Lahn were heard describing a new use for a gutted office building in Old Marlton Pike, off Route 73.

The board acted weeks after approving a separate proposal to sell cannabis products at the former Marlton Diner on Westbound Route 70.

And his decisions came as similar proposals surfaced before municipal land-use agencies across South Jersey. These have included proposals for cannabis stores in a mall in Mount Laurel, an office park in Pennsauken, and even on the grounds of a miniature golf course in Voorhees.

“There are very few operating pharmacies in New Jersey right now, but that will change dramatically,” Mark Steinmetz, who plans to operate the Enlighten pharmacy at the Marlton Diner location, told the board at an Oct. 6 meeting.

Planning authorities across the region are seeing a surge in applications for cannabis shops, added Timothy Prime, a Mount Laurel land use attorney who represents Enlighten Health & Wellness LLC.

“There’s a lot coming in,” he told the board.

An Evesham ordinance allows up to five cannabis stores in the community, with each project expected to progress relatively slowly.

“We certainly hope that all local and state permits, site work and inspections are completed as soon as possible,” said Richard Wells, a Voorhees attorney for the Lahns. “But it will probably take several months to complete all of that.”

In his remarks, Steinmetz acknowledged that long lines had formed outside the first adult-use cannabis stores in New Jersey. He predicted that would change as more stores opened.

Steinmetz also said many of his store’s customers didn’t fit the stereotype of teenage stoners.

“We’re an adults-only facility,” he said. “However, we anticipate that the majority of (customers) will be there for medical purposes.”

“National surveys have shown in medical and adult use communities that more than half of those who appear for adult use are actually motivated to purchase for medical reasons,” he noted.

He compared these customers to drugstore customers who bought over-the-counter products to relieve pain or other symptoms.

At separate meetings, each claimant said security measures would include ID checks for all customers, indoor and outdoor surveillance cameras, and daily cash receipts collection.

“The amusement business is very cash-intensive, so that’s where we have experience,” Alex Lahn told planning committee members at the Nov. 17 meeting.

The Lahn family, including father Randy and son Alex, operates the Funplex amusement parks in Mount Laurel and East Hanover, Morris County.

A group led by Randy Lahn acquired the former Woodcrest Country Club in Cherry Hill last year. It now functions as the Legacy Club in Woodcrest.

The 3,441 square foot building on Old Marlton Pike has long been the home of Lahn Real Estate and more recently housed an independent Re/Max office.

The Lahns had gutted the building to house their entertainment company’s headquarters before deciding to set up a cannabis dispensary there, the men said.

The Lahns’ “High Way” store would sell pre-packaged products to casual customers, including online shoppers who arrange pickup in advance. It would operate from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, Alex Lahn said.

The former Marlton Diner, a 6,000-square-foot building off Cropwell Road, would undergo a major refurbishment, including a total makeover of the exterior.

“We’re trying to get rid of the Jersey diner look,” Prime said of the building, which was once part of the Denny’s chain. “It’s not a diner anymore.”

The Route 70 site would operate from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily. He also expects to offer deliveries with unmarked vehicles, Steinmetz said.

At the last meeting, board members voted 5 to 2 in favor of the Lahns’ proposal. However, its approval requires the Lahns to resolve outstanding issues, including the community’s request for a sidewalk on the site and concerns about the location of a truck bed.

The motion could come before the board again if significant changes are required.

Jim Walsh is a senior reporter at the Courier-Post, Burlington County Times and The Daily Journal.