Philly's first medical marijuana dispensary opens in Fishtown

Philadelphia’s first medical marijuana dispensary opened its doors Wednesday morning in the city’s Fishtown neighborhood.

Restore Integrative Wellness Center, a spa-like facility on the 900 block of Frankford Avenue, was packed with patients and caregivers shortly after 11 a.m., co-owner Vip Patel said.

“We’ve got a full house with a good 30 people in here right now,” Patel said. “And that’s with the street blocked by the water department digging holes. Still, things do seem to be falling in line and working out well.”

First-time patients were given a cost-free 30-minute consultation with a staff pharmacist. The meeting is intended to determine the right strains of medical marijuana, the form, potency, and method of administration to treat each patient’s ailments, co-owner Steven O said. He recommended that newcomers schedule an appointment.

“These medications are powerful and it’s important we educate people the right way,” said the low-key O, a licensed acupuncturist who also operates physical rehabilitation facilities in Elkins Park and Philadelphia’s Chinatown.

Restore is one of about two dozen dispensaries in operation across Pennsylvania. The shops, which are open exclusively to certified patients or their caregivers, currently sell only cannabis concentrates, tinctures, capsules, and vape pens. “Flower,” the dried buds of the cannabis plant, will be sold later this year at dispensaries.

>> READ MORE: Buyer’s Guide to Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Products

Patel, who was greeting patients on Frankford Avenue across from the Fillmore concert hall, said Restore will operate from 11 to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday and eventually add evening and Sunday hours.

Restore plans to launch a second dispensary in Elkins Park “in about three months,” Patel said.

Location of Philadelphia's first medical marijuana dispensary

Several additional companies are to open dispensaries in South Philadelphia and Center City by early fall.

Pennsylvania legalized cannabis medicines in April 2016. The first growers and processors harvested their initial crops in January and shipped product in February to what were then just a handful of dispensaries scattered across the state.

Patients suffering from 21 serious health ailments — including chronic pain and opioid-use disorder — may qualify for medical marijuana products after applying to the state Department of Health for a patient registration card and getting a certified recommendation from a state-approved doctor. More information may be found at medicalmarijuana.pa.gov.

>> READ MORE: For updates about the medical marijuana programs in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware visit philly.com/cannabis