Medical Marijuna? Yes. This location? No.

 Mt. Airy residents are shown attending a community meeting on Aug. 15. (Bobby Allyn/WHYY)

Mt. Airy residents are shown attending a community meeting on Aug. 15. (Bobby Allyn/WHYY)

On April 25, more than 300 residents of Mt. Airy filled the sanctuary of Oxford Presbyterian Church for a three-hour meeting to hear from Chris Visco and Adina Birnbaum, the owners of TerraVida Holistic Center, who were proposing to open a medical marijuana dispensary at 8319 Stenton Avenue.

We sat quietly and listened respectfully.

Let us be very clear in noting that the people in this community are not ill-informed. We comprise working and retired homeowners who understand the benefits of medicinal marijuana. We advocated for the state legislation, and we want access for the people in our community (adults and children) whose quality of life will be improved by this treatment. Contrary to what some people have assumed, we are in the know.

However, this community has concerns about the proposed location and about public safety. The site of this dispensary is in a densely populated residential neighborhood. Family homes surround this building. An influx of delivery trucks, armored trucks collecting large amounts of cash (this is a cash-based business), and more than 4,000 people per month (a number provided by TerraVida) would be 100-percent disruptive to this immediate area.

If TerraVida were interested in meeting with this community, with people who walk past this building every day, then they would have reached out to us before the application was submitted to the state in March. Or, they would have contacted the actual Councilperson before the city permit was approved! The owners did neither.

Instead, after the community meeting one of the owners arrogantly vowed to fight!

Did this mean you were waging a fight against our community? The very community whose comments and concerns you say that you appreciate? A fight against the homeowners who pay property taxes in the city of Philadelphia, a fight with the people who have lived in East Mt. Airy for generations? The people of whom you said “it is of great importance to include you in the process?”

No, this is not NIMBY. Residents have suggested alternative suitable locations, such as Market Square, which is in our backyard. No, this is not a narrow-minded response, as we are one of the most progressive communities in Philadelphia. Our track record of advocacy bears this out. 8319 Stenton Avenue, is simply the wrong location. Of the four state-approved sites for our city, this is the only one in a densely residential neighborhood.

Yes, our quality of life is our No. 1 priority. We have financially invested in this community. It is our home. But the facts are equally as important. And the fact is, the people who live closest to this location have said no. Now, let’s look somewhere else. Together, city and state officials, local stakeholders, and TerraVida can find a more agreeable location for this operation. TerraVida, do you really care about the people who live in this community?

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