Updated May 4, 11:05 a.m.
As Pennsylvania gets closer to approving applicants to open the state’s first medical marijuana dispensaries, more companies are coming before Pittsburgh’s zoning board seeking a needed variance.
One of those groups wants to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Squirrel Hill — a proposal that has the backing of Allegheny County’s first executive, Jim Roddey.
Mary Del Brady is serving in a consulting role with applicant Keystone Relief Centers, she told The Incline, and would become CEO if the group gets necessary approvals including a permit to operate from the state. Brady met today with Councilmember Corey O’Connor, who represents the district that includes the proposed dispensary site, as well as representatives from two community groups, the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition and Greenfield Community Association.
Brady said they had a “very good dialogue.”
“We want to be a part of the community,” she said, “and believe that we add something.”
The proposed site at 3885 Forward Ave. “meets our needs,” Brady said, while complying with concerns the community may have, like adequate parking and distance from facilities like daycare centers.
Should Keystone Relief Centers receive a permit from the Pennsylvania Department of Health to operate a dispensary, the group will also need a special variance from Pittsburgh’s zoning board. A hearing is scheduled for May 25.
Brady said Keystone has an “unbelievable group of investors” including medical professionals who are interested, not in publicity, but in getting medical cannabis to patients in the right way.
“They are very sophisticated, very interested in what this is about and want to do it right,” Brady said of the investors.
She described Roddey, who is now firm director at Baker Tilly’s Pittsburgh office, and Nicholas Geanopulos, a Downtown Pittsburgh restaurant owner and gambling lobbyist, as “founders” and “very interested and involved.” Both men were listed on an SEC filing from November.
Roddey declined to speak to The Incline. Reached by phone, Geanopulos referred questions to an attorney.
O’Connor’s office and Keystone Relief Centers plan to hold a community meeting on the proposed dispensary May 17 at 6:30 p.m. at the Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh (1405 Shady Ave.). This will give residents time to provide feedback to community groups so they can either oppose or support the project at the zoning board hearing, O’Connor’s Chief of Staff Curt Conrad said.
“I support medical marijuana, and I think a lot of people do, too,” O’Connor told The Incline. “It’s all locally owned and operated. That’s a good feeling that I have … knowing these individuals.”
O’Connor said Keystone Relief Centers is “willing to work with us” on requests like exterior design and adding a walking trail that would connect Squirrel Hill to Greenfield.
“It should hopefully work out,” O’Connor said, adding that his office is committed to going through a robust community process.
Brady said medical cannabis can “really … make a difference in people’s comfort as well as in their lives.” She worked in biotech for 20 years and considers this work to have the same desired outcome: “changing people’s lives.”
Just one dispensary applicant, Green House Apothecary and Dr. Shannon Thieroff, has already gone before the zoning board seeking a variance. Another applicant is scheduled to go before the board May 18. That company, Cresco Yeltrah, is seeking to open a dispensary in the Strip District. A request for comment from Chicago-based Cresco Labs was not returned.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Health has split the state into six zones that can each receive a certain number of permits. During the first phase of rollout, DOH will issue up to 12 permits for growers and processors and up to 27 permits for dispensaries. Allegheny County can receive two permits. The state is expected to award permits in June.
Daylin Leach, a state senator who championed medical marijuana, recently said he hopes dispensaries will be open by Feb. 14, 2018.