Pubdate: Mon, 14 Aug 2017
Source: Philadelphia Daily News (PA)
Copyright: 2017 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.
Author: Sam Wood


Political opposition could derail a medical marijuana dispensary
slated to open early next year in Philadelphia's East Mount Airy

A zoning hearing Tuesday morning attracted a sizable crowd, including
people from eight neighborhood churches among others aiming to force
East Mount Airy's TerraVida Holistic Centers dispensary to fold before
it opens.

In March, the city granted a zoning permit to TerraVida to operate on
the 8300 block of Stenton Avenue at Allens Lane. In June, the state
Department of Health awarded the company a highly coveted license to
sell cannabis-derived oils, tinctures and lotions at the former bank
building, which sits on a commercial corridor that includes a small
strip mall, two gas stations, and a Rite Aid pharmacy. Only four
dispensary permits were slated for the state's most populous city,
though more could be added.

Local politicians, however, have lined up against it. The charge has
been led by Ninth District Councilwoman Cherelle L. Parker, who
maintains that since the neighborhood is densely residential overall,
the zoning permit was issued in error. Parker has been joined by State
Sen. Art Haywood and State Rep. Christopher M. Rabb. On Monday,
Councilwoman Cindy Bass, of the adjacent Eighth District, issued a
statement announcing she was also "strongly opposed."

"What is new is also unknown," Bass said. "Will it attract unwanted
elements to a neighborhood? How could having a drug dispensary in a
residential community exacerbate crime, traffic, litter and blight?
These are all questions I have posed, along with my Mount Airy
constituents. They are impossible to answer, because a medical
marijuana dispensary has never existed in Philadelphia."

Bass said the dispensary should be placed close to an existing medical

If Tuesday's appeal is successful, the Zoning Board of Adjustment
could order the city to revoke the permit, said Mayor Kenney's
spokeswoman Lauren Hitt.

TerraVida's president, Christine Visco, said she's in a bind. The
building is under an agreement of sale, TerraVida is obligated to buy
it for $500,000, and the company is prohibited from using the license
to open in another space.

"We have no choice but to open at that location," Visco said."The
state Department of Health made it very clear that no one can move."

The hearing began at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday at the Zoning Board of
Adjustment, 1515 Arch Street on the 18th floor.

The zoning board could order the City to revoke its permit.
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