PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The state of Pennsylvania has changed its own rules to allow a medical marijuana dispensary in Philadelphia change locations, in response to community opposition.
The operator, Terra Vida, has a state permit to open three dispensaries including one in a former bank building in the 8500 block of Stenton Avenue in Mt. Airy.
In a letter to Terra Vida, dated August 31, the Director of the Office of Medical Marijuana said opposition from the Mt. Airy neighbors could lead to “protracted litigation and legal fees which may affect Terra Vida’s financial position” and “lead to reduced patient access to medical marijuana.”
Terra Vida founder Chris Visco says finding another location in Philadelphia will be difficult because zoning rules have changed– that, in direct response to the permit Terra Vida received for the Mt. Airy dispensary. But she says she’ll try.
“Medical marijuana brings patient access, creates lots of jobs and lots of tax revenue so we’re really eager to stay in the city of Philadelphia,” she said.
The change in location ends a months-long battle that began even before Terra Vida received its state license.
Councilwoman Cherelle Parker, at the urging of neighbors, challenged the dispensary’s local zoning permit and changed the zoning code to forbid dispensaries within 500 feet of any day care facility. She brought more than a hundred people to a zoning hearing, two weeks ago, that was inconclusive.
After Terra Vida won the state permit, Parker went to Commonwealth Court to challenge it.
She was joined by Councilwoman Cindy Bass who asked the state to revoke the permit, charging Terra Vida made the false claim on its application that its officers met with her about the site.
“That was not true. Terra Vida admitted that was not true,” says Bass.
“The definition of ‘met’ is up for interpretation,” says Visco. “We went to a fundraiser for her because we believed the property was in her district. We had a brief conversation with her. She immediately told us it was Cherelle Parker’s district.”
Visco says they never met with Parker because they were unable to schedule a meeting, something Parker’s office dismisses as preposterous.
State Representative Chris Raab also joined the fray, posting on Facebook that he would drive Philadelphia customers to one of Terra Vida’s suburban locations.
“The entire situation was spinning out of control,” says Visco.
Bass and Parker are pleased with the resolution.
“The power of the people was heard,” says Bass. “It’s a good feeling.”
“I wholeheartedly applaud the East Mt. Airy community for standing firm in their efforts to protect the quality of life in this neighborhood,” says Parker.