Patients ready, but medical marijuana isn’t just yet

There are more than 10,000 patients who have registered to receive the drug, but the earliest it will be available is late March. The plan is to still open a dispensary on Krewstown Road.

When the state first issued medical marijuana dispensary licenses to two dozen potential dispensaries last June, it looked like Northeast Philadelphia would be a hub for the medicine.

Almost eight months later, there are no dispensaries open in the city, and demand for the product has accumulated well past 10,000 patients.

Here’s some good news and some bad news for the 10,000-plus registered patients in the state. The good news is product has begun growing for at least one dispensary in the Northeast. The bad news is it won’t be ready until the end of March, at the earliest.

When the licenses were first distributed, dispensaries in the state had until the end of December to get their businesses up and running. Obviously, this would not be the case for Holistic Pharma, the dispensary that’s been tight-lipped about whether it will open up at its courted 8900 Krewstown Road location in Bustleton, but now that conclusion is all but inevitable.

“We are still on schedule and plan to open the dispensary at end of the first quarter of the year,” said Keith Morgan of Holistic Pharma. Morgan told the Times back in November he had applied for an extension that would give him several more months to set up shop. He mentioned around April 1 as a potential time frame, but not a definite opening date.

Holistic Farms, a sister company of Holistic Pharma and one of 12 licensed growers in the state, began its first harvest in western Pennsylvania on Jan. 11. Morgan said it typically takes about three or four months for the product to grow, and then longer to process and package.

In December, Gov. Tom Wolf and the Department of Health announced more than 10,000 patients and more than 550 doctors in the state had registered for use of the medicine. So far, about 1,200 of those patients have been certified to participate. Doctors will have to undergo training before they are licensed, but about 250 had completed the training at the time of the press release.

When the state first issued licenses, 27 were given statewide, including three in the city.

Though legally approved, the idea of having the Northeast serve as somewhat of an experiment to having dispensaries in its backyard has received some negative opinions from civic association meetings. Neighborhood meetings in Normandy and Bustleton have voted in opposition to the idea.

PharmaCann LLC, which is eyeing a location at 599 Franklin Mills Circle close to the Philadelphia Mills mall, has received much conflict from its potential neighbor, and its future is up in the air.

Groups like PhillyNORML, which hopes to legalize recreational marijuana, have banded in support of medical use of the high-inducing drug.

“These patients will be buying medicine, not drugs,” said Robert Rudnitsky, the executive director of PhillyNORML. “All of these patients will have very severe medical conditions and are very appreciative that the state has finally come to their aid with such a compassionate form of medicine.” ••