Councilwoman will try to block medical marijuana dispensary

A Philadelphia city councilwoman says she will try to block a medical marijuana dispensary from being located in her East Mount Airy district.

Cherelle L. Parker said she will appeal the zoning permit granted to TerraVida Holistic Centers, which on Thursday was awarded a potentially lucrative permit to open at 8319 Stenton Ave., near Allens Lane. Only four dispensary permits were slated for the state’s most populous city, though more could be added.

Councilwoman Cherelle L. Parker represents the Ninth District.

“This is not a debate about the merits of medical marijuana — which the community and I both support — but it is solely about the proposed use at this location,” Parker said in a statement, citing concerns about public safety and security. “I remain vehemently opposed to this site.”

State Rep. Chris Rabb (D., Phila.), who lives four blocks from the proposed dispensary, said he was happy to have one in the neighborhood. But Rabb said he believes the two-story structure is “specifically an awful location.”

“It’s on Stenton Avenue, which is no stranger to crime,” Rabb said of the former bank building. “And this will be a cash-only business.”

The former commander of the 14th Police District, Capt. Sekou Kinebrew, said that although that section of the city isn’t particularly violent, “we’ve had some problems there in cycles.”

“There was a guy robbing women at bus stops in late 2015,” said Kinebrew, who now serves as the department’s spokesman. “We got him, but I can understand their concerns.”

The president of TerraVida, Chris Visco, said the East Mount Airy dispensary is scheduled to open the first week of January.

“We have a commitment to open there, but we will keep our options open,” Visco said. “One of the reasons we bought it is it’s a former bank. We like that community. We can create great jobs there and hopefully spark some more development there.”

TerraVida also is set to open dispensaries in Abington and Sellersville.

The competition for dispensary permits was highly competitive. An anonymous panel reviewed more than 280 applications. Aspirants vied for a chance to provide cannabis oils, tinctures, lotions, and vapor cartridges to patients wanting to treat their ailments with medical marijuana. The panel weighed answers to 30 questions before tallying up points and awarding a total of 27 permits.

“Whether or not a community was for or against an application does not appear to have been a factor in scoring them,” said Seth A. Goldberg, a partner at Duane Morris LLC who heads the firm’s cannabis practice. “But I’m sure of all those granted permits are happy.”