A local councilman wants to prevent a pocket of Northeast Philadelphia from participating in Pennsylvania’s future recreational cannabis market.
According to WHYY News, the proposal, introduced by Philadelphia City Councilmember Brian O’Neill, would affect three existing medical marijuana dispensaries in the region stretching from Pine Road to Castor Avenue, with the Delaware River acting as the adjacent eastern border.
Even though adult-use marijuana is currently illegal in Pennsylvania, existing medical dispensaries are typically first in line to convert when an area transitions from medical-only.
Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro supports recreational legalization in the state and even earmarked a 20% tax on recreational marijuana as part of his proposed budget plan.
The proposed zoning changes are not the first attempt by the Philadelphia City Council to limit locations where legal marijuana can be sold.
In 2019, Councilmember Curtis Jones proposed restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries within his district in the Northwest, which encapsulate parts of Manayunk and sections of the West Philadelphia. Jones stated at the time that his concern centered around clusters of dispensaries in one neighborhood, although he did not oppose medical marijuana.
The proposed zoning changes concern several local stakeholders. Jamie Ware, chair of the Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition, expressed disappointment over the legislation, highlighting the investment legal medical marijuana operators have already made.
“Legal medical marijuana operators spent millions on building the dispensaries and investing in heightened security measures,” Ware told WHYY News. Businesses have signed long-term leases with landlords, some for as long as 10 years, she added.
Ware stressed the lack of engagement and dialogue prior to the passage of the ordinance, leaving affected members of the coalition unable to participate in the community engagement process or hold meaningful discussions with the council.
O’Neill has not responded to requests for comment.