Pubdate: Tue, 03 Apr 2018
Source: Philadelphia Daily News (PA)
Copyright: 2018 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.
Author: Andrew B. Sacks


As one of the first lawyers in Pennsylvania to venture into the legal
world of medical marijuana and hemp, I have had the pleasure to work
and assist with the development of Pennsylvania's medical marijuana
program. I could not be happier to see these dispensaries opening and
helping the sick get relief.

However, a problem has developed that will make it very difficult for
many of the patients who most need the medicine to receive it.

The problem stems from the law's requirement that a medical marijuana
dispensary cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a school or day-care

It's not too difficult to manage this with regard to schools.
Philadelphia has many; but not so many that locations for dispensaries
are totally out of the question.

But there are hundreds of day-care centers just in Philadelphia. The
"thousand-foot rule" means that there are almost no potential
dispensary locations in the city, and that patients must travel to the
suburbs, or to the far corners of Philadelphia, to purchase their
medical marijuana. This hardship will be felt most by the old and the

While I understand concerns about locating a dispensary near a school,
I wonder why a day care is problematic. An 18-month-old child is not
likely to hang out in front of a dispensary. A CVS can be next to a
school or a day care and dispense opioid death, but a medical
marijuana dispensary is too scary to have within a thousand feet of
small children?

It helped when citizens brought their concerns to City Council, which
asked the Department of Public Health to change the rule to 500 feet
- -- and this was approved.

But it was not enough; it solved the problem for no one in Center
City, and put only 13 compliant locations on the map of the entire
city. Those locations are far from the majority of people who live in
Philadelphia. They will have very difficult access to the dispensaries
in the suburbs and Northeast Philadelphia.

Currently, a Center City resident has to take public transportation,
an expensive ride-hailing car, or drive to one of the dispensaries
every 30 days to get medical marijuana. A card holder can ask for a
caregiver to get the medicine for the patient, but that just puts the
same burden on the caregiver.

Here is the bottom line: Round Two of the application process for the
remaining dispensary permits begins soon. Clinical registrant
dispensaries also will be approved in the near future. (A clinical
registrant is responsible for doing medical research.) The private
dispensaries and the clinical registrants should -- and wish to --
open dispensaries where the greater population of potential patients
is located. That would be Center City and its neighborhoods.

At this point, none of those new permit winners will be opening in
Center City and its neighborhoods. All because of the 500-feet
day-care rule.

City Council acted earlier to reduce the distance rule because
constituents pressed their Council members into acting. The thousands
of patients who need medical marijuana should again press Council and,
in turn, the health department to adopt a one-foot rule. If the health
department gave approval for dispensaries 500 feet from a day care, I
see no reason why it would not approve one foot, so patients can
obtain their medicine.

Think about the opportunity to locate dispensaries in the abandoned
stores in Center City, in South Philadelphia, in West Philadelphia,
and in North Philadelphia. The city would receive revenue from real
estate taxes, and dispensaries would create jobs in all those
neighborhoods. This will not be possible unless Council acts very
soon; the time for dispensary applications is short, and the
applicants must find appropriate locations in order to submit those

I close with a request: If you have one of the 17 illnesses eligible
for medical marijuana treatment, please contact your City Council
member and tell him or her that you want nearby access to the
medicine. If the one-foot rule is not adopted, I am afraid that the
majority of Philadelphians will be shut out of reasonable access to
medical marijuana.

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Andrew B. Sacks is managing partner at the Sacks Weston Diamond law
firm and chairman of the medical marijuana and hemp department.
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MAP posted-by: Matt