Philadelphia City Council panel OKs regulatons on medical marijuana locations

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City Council members listen to testimony at a Wednesday hearing  in Philadelphia City Hall on medical marijuana dispensaries. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

City Council members listen to testimony at a Wednesday hearing in Philadelphia City Hall on medical marijuana dispensaries. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

As Pennsylvania prepares to launch its medical marijuana program, a Philadelphia City Council committee has approved restrictions on where  the pot can be grown and distributed.

Marty Gregorski of the city planning commission said the original proposal called for keeping dispensaries away from churches.

“One-thousand feet from other regulated uses, 500 feet from religious use, hotels, convention and civic centers, schools up to the 12th grade and public playgrounds,” he said.

The final version of the bill removes the restrictions from around houses of worship, said Paula Burns of the planning commission.

She said the facilities will not have people smoking pot inside or outside.

“It’s usually a very clinical-looking office with waiting chairs a receptionist and maybe someone at a counter where you can discuss the referral,” Burns said. “Doctors are not prescribing marijuana, they are giving a referral to meet with medical marijuana pharmacist or doctor at the dispensary itself.”

Philadelphia may be asking for a waiver from state rules to allow dispensaries close to churches.  

Without the waiver, officials say it could be very tough to find appropriate locations.

“We have corner churches on every corner that are usually occupied on a weeknight or a Saturday or Sunday, so by protecting them from medical, we thought it wasn’t necessarily needed for that one,” Burns said. “If we went to recreational, it would be a different situation.”

At a hearing Wednesday, several people asked whether recreational pot use is coming. Experts said that eventuality is at least five years down the road.

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