Washington pot dispensary starting from scratch

October 4, 2017
In this Sept. 15, 2015, photo, marijuana grows at the Ataraxia medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion, Ill. - Associated Press

Washington City Council is expected to determine Thursday if development of a state-approved medical marijuana dispensary will proceed.

Founders of the Healing Center originally planned to renovate the building at 799 W. Chestnut St., but are now preparing for new construction. The existing structure was built in 1929.

“We’ll be tearing that building down and building a brand new building from scratch,” said cofounder Jay Richards.

Developers requested zoning variances from the city and East Washington’s joint zoning ordinance, including those for front and side yard size requirements and parking space requirements. Those variances, approved by the city’s zoning hearing board Sept. 26, will be acted upon by council at its Thursday meeting.

Councilman Joe Manning said he anticipates approval of the request.

In addition to dispensing medical marijuana, the Healing Center, one of 27 dispensaries permitted by the state Department of Health, will offer holistic services like yoga and massage therapy to clients.

Richards said the dispensary would be a highly secure facility. The front exterior door will open into a vestibule where a second door will remain locked until the client is identified by staff. Delivery trucks will enter through a garage door that must close before an interior door leading to the rest of the building is unlocked.

Richards, who said he did not want to divulge much without first securing approval from council, expects to start construction about a month after finalizing plans with city officials.

The medical marijuana program, signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf in April 2016, is expected to be implemented in 2018. It will offer medical marijuana to Pennsylvania residents under a physician’s care for the treatment of one of 17 medical conditions, including cancer, chronic neuropathic pain, HIV/AIDS, autism, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Crohn’s, sickle cell anemia, multiple sclerosis and severe seizure disorders.

Earlier this year, the Health Department released the names of 27 dispensaries and 12 growers, selected out of 280 applications for dispensary permits and 177 applications for grower permits.

City Council is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Thursday in City Hall.

Natalie Reid Miller has been with the Observer-Reporter since 2013. A native of Burgettstown, she primarily covers Washington and surrounding communities. Natalie has a writing degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

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