The Zitner's chocolate factory in North Philadelphia. A Passyunk Avenue storefront near the Italian Market. An Old City building owned by a restaurateur.
This trio is among the seven locations that received zoning permits in recent days for proposed medical-marijuana dispensaries or growing facilities in Philadelphia, and applications for six more locations were pending, the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections said Tuesday.
The zoning approvals came amid a furious dash by investors seeking to submit bids to the Pennsylvania Department of Health for medical-marijuana licenses by the March 20 filing deadline. Several permits were granted on deadline day; one came through a day late, on Tuesday.
The L&I list provides an early glimpse into a pot gold rush that has stirred such investment interest that state officials expected to receive up to 900 applications statewide for just 12 grower licenses and 27 dispensary permits. Only two grower licenses will be awarded in an eight-county southeast region that includes Philadelphia.
The L&I tally does not include everyone expected to apply for a dispensary or grower/processor license in Philadelphia -- only those who sought zoning permits from L&I before submitting applications to the state Health Department.
Proposed Medical-Marijuana Facilities in Philadelphia
The Pennsylvania Department of Health will not yet disclose how many applications it has received or from whom, given that those materials were expected to flow in with a Monday postmark all through the week, a spokeswoman said.
The tally from city officials in Philadelphia suggests considerable activity since the state opened its one-month application period for licenses on Feb. 20.
The reason for hitting up L&I is that anyone hoping to run a dispensary or grower/processor facility in the city will have to secure a zoning permit from the agency before launching a medical pot business, spokeswoman Karen Guss said.
Over the last three weeks, L&I granted permits for proposed dispensaries at 915 N. Front St., 1125 E. Passyunk Ave., 8319 Stenton Ave., 1201 Walnut St., 460 N. Second St., and 114 N. Third St., Guss said.
The agency also approved a permit for a proposed marijuana-growing facility at 3100 N. 17th St., home to hometown-favorite chocolate Easter egg manufacturer Zitner's.
The Zitner permit applies to a section of the 108,000-square-foot industrial building owned by a Zitner Candy Corp. affiliate, according to L&I records.
Candy-company owner Evan Prochniak said a section of his building that he is not currently using would be leased to the marijuana business. He said he has never met its prospective operators, only their lawyer.
A medical-marijuana facility at the site would not affect Zitner’s expanding candy production, Prochniak said.
The city also green-lit zoning for an Old City building owned by restaurateur George Anni for a dispensary permit where prescriptions can be filled. That storefront at 114 N. Third St. is in a building owned by an entity registered to an Anni-linked address, according to L&I and property records.
Anni, whose restaurants include Butcher Bar, Varga Bar and Mercato, said he is not involved with the dispensary proposal, which is being handled by a partner. He declined to share any other details.
A zoning permit for a dispensary also was issued for a two-story commercial building at 8219 Stenton Ave. near East Mount Airy, according to L&I.
The medical-marijuana law enacted in April would open Pennsylvania to the legal production and distribution of the federally banned drug for medicinal uses. It prohibits distribution in plant form, and marijuana would ultimately be dispensed only to people suffering from 17 qualifying medical conditions.
In what regulators have described as a phased process, the application period that ended this week will lead to the awarding of just 12 of the 25 grower/processor licenses allowed by law. The Wolf administration also plans to issue 27 permits to open to 81 dispensaries across Pennsylvania.
As part of their applications with the state, would-be dispensary or grow-facility owners must demonstrate control over the properties where they plan to run their businesses, and to verify that the properties meet local zoning requirements.
Lindy Snider, daughter of Flyers' founder Ed Snider, did so without knocking on L&I's door.
She is leading a group that would grow and process marijuana on a vacant parcel of land at Northeast Philadelphia’s Byberry East Industrial Park at 14515 McNulty Rd., near the Bucks County border. The group obtained zoning letters from the city Planning Commission and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp.
“We are confident that we have satisfied that requirement by obtaining letters from two city agencies stating that the land is appropriately zoned for this purpose," said Snider Health spokesman Kevin Feeley.