Company eyes Bustleton for possible medical marijuana facility

By William Kenny

Mere days after a company run by members of Philadelphia ice hockey’s first family announced a plan to open up a massive medical marijuana grow facility in the Far Northeast, a local civic group learned that another company may apply for a state license to open a dispensary in the area.

On Feb. 20, a partner in Holistic Pharma LLC approached the board of the Greater Bustleton Civic League and asked to address the group’s monthly meeting two days later. The community leaders turned down the request because they wanted more time to research the company as well as the provisions of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law.

On Sunday, Holistic Pharma Chairman Keith A. Morgan told the Northeast Times that his company is considering several Philadelphia locations where it may apply for dispensary licenses. One of those locations is in the Bustleton area, but Morgan declined to disclose the specific site because of the competitive nature of the state-regulated application process.

“It’s highly competitive. There realistically could be five hundred to nine hundred applications across the state for 27 dispensary licenses and 12 grow licenses,” Morgan said.

Last year, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission received more than 800 dispensary applications and awarded 102 licenses, according to the Baltimore Sun. In 2015, the state of Illinois received 369 applications for 60 available dispensaries and 21 grow facilities, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Pennsylvania’s application window began on Feb. 20 and will conclude on March 20. The Department of Health is managing the process and has not disclosed how many applications it has received. The state’s medical marijuana law, which was enacted last year, allows for 50 dispensary licenses and 25 grow licenses statewide, but the health department has said it plans to issue 27 dispensary licenses initially, including three in Philadelphia, as well as 12 grow licenses, including two in the state’s southeastern region. Applicants don’t get special consideration for filing early.

“I pretty much expect everybody is going to wait until March 20,” said Morgan, a Lower Merion resident whose family lived on Lochwood Road in Bustleton when he was a young child.

Holistic Pharma and its sister company, Holistic Farms, are based in Haverford Township, Delaware County. Morgan and veteran medical marijuana entrepreneur Richard Genderson are the principals. Genderson is a founder, managing partner or board member of businesses that hold grow or dispensary licenses in the District of Columbia, Arizona, Maryland and Massachusetts.

Morgan is a former AAMCO Transmissions CEO and president of Master Lease Corp. He has served on the boards of The Shipley School, the Cancer Support Community, Penn Medicine and the Suzanne Morgan Foundation, which was named in memory of his mother who died from cancer.

Holistic Farms is the partners’ medical marijuana grow and processing entity. They plan to apply for grow licenses in New Castle, Lawrence County (about 20 miles east of Youngstown, Ohio), as well as West Pottsgrove, Montgomery County.

Morgan did not disclose where Holistic Pharma may apply for dispensary licenses. The 28-page dispensary application requires applicants to submit detailed information about their business history, ownership, financing, organization, personnel, personal backgrounds, diversity, qualifications, security and community impact, among other factors.

The final “Community Impact” section of the application states in part: “Indication of support from public officials will NOT be considered when evaluating this section. Provide a summary of how the applicant intends to have a positive impact on the community where its operations are proposed to be located.”

During the Feb. 22 Bustleton civic meeting, GBCL President Jack O’Hara told residents that he had little information about the potential dispensary application, but the civic group might call a special meeting to discuss the issue in advance of the March 20 application deadline.

“This topic is going to generate a lot of questions and I don’t have a lot of answers right now,” O’Hara said.

“I want to get in front of this and let everyone know they approached us. Right now, I don’t know the address, but it’s in 19115 (ZIP code). The location is impactful to us. … And one of (the state’s) requests is that they go in front of the community and have support.”

As first reported by the Northeast Times, the daughter of late Philadelphia Flyers founder Ed Snider announced during a Feb. 15 meeting of the Parkwood Civic Association that a company she co-founded with her brother and nephew hopes to build a 125,000-square-foot medical marijuana growing and processing center in the Byberry East Industrial Park. The civic association endorsed the proposal unanimously.

The state is expected to award licenses 90 days after the conclusion of the application period.

In other meeting business:

• City Councilman Brian O’Neill announced that his office is trying to get city approvals to close a section of Krewstown Road in Pennypack Park in June for the benefit of walkers, joggers and bicyclists. The event would be modeled after the recreational closures of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive along the Schuylkill River.

Krewstown would be closed to motor vehicles between Algon and Bloomfield avenues for several hours. O’Neill is targeting June 4 for the event.

• The owner of a real estate office at 1708 Welsh Road sought community backing to change the zoning of the property from residential to commercial. The property features a 125-year-old home that has been in use as a professional office for decades. In 2004, the owner refurbished the old home, which is no longer suitable for residential use, he said.

The real estate business operates legally with a zoning variance, but the owner wants to get a permanent zoning change. All such changes require City Council approval. In an informal show of hands, a majority of GBCL members in attendance showed their support for the change, although the civic group has no procedural role in a zoning change. ••

William Kenny can be reached at 215–354–3031 or wkenny@bsmphilly.com. Follow the Times on Twitter @NETimesOfficial.