The likelihood of a medical marijuana dispensary coming to Meadville is high, according to a statement released by John Knox, the attorney for an Erie company that hopes to open locations in northwestern Pennsylvania.

Passport West Eighth LLC issued a press release announcing its plans to apply for a license to open dispensaries in Erie, Meadville and one other location in northwestern Pennsylvania.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill legalizing medical marijuana in Pennsylvania in April. The legislation includes a list of 17 qualifying conditions for which marijuana can be prescribed, including cancer, autism, epilepsy, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and post-traumatic stress disorder.

If the application is approved, Passport West Eighth LLC hopes to open its Meadville location early in 2017, according to Knox. He declined to comment on where exactly that location would be.

“Our best guess is that it would be open by the end of March,” he said.

Though he was surprised to hear a dispensary might be coming to Meadville, Mayor LeRoy Stearns reacted positively to the announcement.

“Like any business, as long as they meet all the requirements,” Stearns said, before explaining that he knew someone who had moved to a western state in order to be able to obtain medical marijuana in the past.

“It’s helped tremendously,” he said.

A number of steps remain before such help arrives in Meadville, however.

“The medical marijuana act is going to make applications for dispensary licenses available sometime in early 2017,” Knox explained. “There’s a lot that remains to be seen here. At the moment, applications are not even available.”

Part of what remains to be seen is what the Pennsylvania Department of Health expects from applicants for the dispensary licenses. DOH will issue no more than 50 licenses in 2017. Each licensee can open up to three dispensaries. Applications cost $5,000 with an additional fee of $30,000 if the application is approved.

“There’s not a lot of guidance from the Department of Health in terms of what they’re looking for,” Knox said. Passport West Eighth has targeted Erie and Meadville in an effort to provide widespread geographical distribution while remaining close to major population centers in the northwestern part of the state.

Adding to what Knox called the “fluid” nature of the application process is the recent election of Donald Trump as president and speculation that he will appoint Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general. Sessions made his opposition to marijuana clear at a Senate hearing in April.

“Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” he said. “We need grown-ups in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it is in fact a very real danger.”

Knox said he was aware of Sessions’ comments and the risks created by the uncertainty of legal issues related to marijuana.

“As I understand it, though, even if he is opposed to the legalization of marijuana, the current Congress has essentially enacted a law that would not authorize any money to be allocated for the prosecution of federal drug charges against entities that are properly acting in states where it has been authorized,” he said.

Knox said that conditions could change as the new administration assumes power in January but that it appears “there are greater risks for states where both medical and recreational marijuana are allowed.”

While some see the legalization of medical marijuana as a step toward legalizing recreational use as well, Knox said that recreational marijuana is not in the company’s plans.

“I know there’s a lot of literature that supports that prediction,” he said. “I don’t think I’m prepared to make that prediction.”

Passport West Eighth LLC is in discussions with health care professionals and sees the business as part of the medical field, according to Knox. Recreational marijuana is “certainly not the focus of our efforts initially,” he said.

Questions about the future possibility of recreational marijuana, who is eligible to receive medical marijuana and other topics will be addressed in public meetings Passport West Eighth plans to hold in communities where it would open dispensaries.

“We’re not legally obligated to do so, but we think that would be a good thing to communicate information to the public directly … and to allay any fears or answer any questions they might have,” Knox said.

In the press release, Gregory J. Rubino, president of Passport West Eighth LLC, cited both medical and economic benefits as motivation for opening dispensaries.

“I personally know several people with chronic medical problems who could benefit greatly from medical marijuana,” Rubino said. “This is now a mainstream medical treatment option with proven results.

“We also think medical marijuana can be an economic engine in northwest Pennsylvania that can provide family-sustaining jobs, healthy tax revenue and benefit a number of community stakeholders,” he added.

Stearns was optimistic about potential benefits for Meadville-area residents.

“I’m sure there’s people in our community that are on treatment that medical marijuana could be helpful to them,” he said.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Erie Company Wants To Open Medical Marijuana Dispensary In Meadville
Author: Mike Crowley
Contact: (814) 724-6370
Photo Credit: Nicholas Belton
Website: The Meadville Tribune