Medical marijuana coming here? Supervisors vow to be objective

By on February 8, 2017

Marijuana plants grow at the Northwest Patient Resource Center medical marijuana dispensary, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, in Seattle. Washington state is on the verge of becoming the first in the nation to let adults over 21 buy taxed, inspected marijuana at state-licensed shops. Supporters of Initiative 502 say allowing recreational pot sales could make drug laws a little more reasonable, prevent thousands of arrests a year, and bring Washington hundreds of millions of dollars to help pay for schools, health care and basic government services. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

When Pennsylvania approved a new medical marijuana program last April, it opened the door to dispensaries being located throughout the state.

In the Southeast region, which includes Lancaster County, the program allows for 10 dispensaries.

One is being proposed for Warwick Township.

At the Feb. 1 township supervisors meeting, local farmer Andrew Buckwalter of Buckhill Farm and Paoli attorney Mark Sopholles associated with BHS Wellness, a healthcare organization in Berks County, took the first step in the process to be considered for one of those 10 dispensaries.

Before they filed an application with the state, they wanted to know where the supervisors stood on the idea. Would they support it? Would they oppose it?

The answer was somewhere in the middle. Supervisors agreed to submit a letter stating they could not approve or disapprove at this point.

“We would approach it as we would approach any project in the township,” said supervisor President W. Logan Myers. “It would go through the same process.”

While the project might be more controversial than some, Myers said the board of supervisors will remain objective.

“This is something we have not dealt with here in the township before, obviously,” added township Manager Daniel Zimmerman.

Buckwalter said he appreciates their objectivity. He now plans to file an application for one of the 10 permits, which will be available Feb. 17.

Buckwalter hopes to locate the dispensary in the southern part of the township, at 1500 Highlands Drive, which is near Heart of Lancaster hospital, several medical offices, and The Shoppes at Kissel Village which includes Target and Giant.

The proposed site is in the township’s campus industrial zone, which allows for hospitals, medical offices and pharmacies. It would function as a pharmacy, and the medical marijuana would be available in liquid and ointment form.

“There would be no plants or plant material,” Buckwalter said. “This type of marijuana is not smoked and does not have any mind-altering effects. It is not recreational. It is medical and highly regulated.”

He added that the marijuana will not be grown at that location, and it will be supplied by approved growers in the state. At this time, the southeast part of the state allows for two grower/processor permits in the eight-county region.

The use of medical marijuana was approved by Pennsylvania legislators after many months of hearings from families who sought it for medical reasons. Parents of young children who suffered life-altering seizures and adults struggling with the effects of chemotherapy to fight cancer testified at the hearings, along with their doctors, in hope that they could use medical marijuana legally in Pennsylvania.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Mayo Clinic, studies have shown that medical marijuana can assist patients suffering from certain serious medical conditions by alleviating pain and improving their quality of life. Among those serious medical conditions are amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, autism, cancer, Crohn’s disease, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) / AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), Huntington’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, intractable seizures, multiple sclerosis, neuropathies, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin and sickle cell anemia.

People with these conditions who are interested in using medical marijuana have to apply for a card through their doctor.

Sopholles reiterated that studies show that medical marijuana has helped people with epilepsy and Parkinson’s live more normal lives.

“The videos are striking, when you see a child with uncontrollable seizures able to relax, or a older man with Parkinson’s who stops shaking uncontrollably,” he said.

Cancer patients have been able to deal with the malaise and nausea of chemotherapy through the use of medical marijuana, and people with serious digestive conditions are finding relief as well.

“This application process will be very competitive,” Buckwalter said. “We did not want to apply until we got a feel for whether or not there would be opposition.”

There are six regions in Pennsylvania, each with two-to-10 permits for dispensaries, and two permits for grower/processors. That comes out to approximately 27 dispensary permits and 12 grower/processing permits in the entire state.

BHS Wellness will be competing for one of 10 permits in the Southeast region that covers Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia, Schuylkill and Lancaster counties.

In other business related to health and wellness, the supervisors approved a conditional use request for a health and fitness club in the campus industrial zone north of Lititz.

The 1,600-square-foot studio will be located in the Pod 2 building of the Rock Lititz campus and will be available to Clair Global employees and customers, as well as the public.

Laura Knowles is a freelance reporter who covers the Warwick Township municipal beat for the Record Express. She welcomes reader feedback and story tips at lknowles21@gmail.com.

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