Scranton’s zoning law likely won’t block a proposed medical marijuana growing facility in lower Green Ridge and some neighbors say they don’t mind the plant anyway.
Pat Hinton, director of licensing, inspections and permits, said the law does not specifically list a medical marijuana growing/processing facility among permitted uses in light industrial zones like the one proposed. However, the city categorized Pennsylvania Medical Solutions LLC’s proposed plant as a combination of a retail store and a pharmacy, both of which the law allows in light-industrial zones.
Minnesota-based Pennsylvania Medical Solutions plans to buy the Pennsylvania Clothing Recyclers plant at 2000 Rosanna Ave., a two-block street with mix of homes and businesses.
Determining whether an unlisted use fits a zone is standard procedure, Hinton said.
He said Pennsylvania Medical officials approached the city earlier this year to determine if the plant fit the zoning. The city still needs to fully review and approve the company’s plans before issuing a building permit, Hinton said.
A use forbidden in a specific zone would require a developer to seek an exception from the city planning commission, the board of zoning appeals or both.
“I don’t think they need to do anything if they’re just working on an existing building,” city planner Don King said.
In a process the state plans to regulate closely, Pennsylvania Medical wants to grow marijuana and convert it into liquids, oils and pills sold at state-licensed dispensaries whose locations should be known by the end of the month.
Medical marijuana may help ease pain, nausea and loss of appetite in cancer or HIV sufferers, though research on effectiveness so far is limited, according to WebMD.com.
The company expects to be up and running the local plant within six months, spokesman Andrew Mangini said.
Jesse Hinkley, 51, of Scranton, who owns the building now, said Pennsylvania Medical plans to pay him $2 million for his building. Hinkley said the company upped its offer to the final price after a Brooklyn printing company offered him slightly more than $1.5 million. A Pennsylvania Medical official spent about 20 minutes in the building in December before its first offer about two weeks later.
Hinkley, whose real estate agent brought him a bottle of sparkling wine to celebrate Tuesday, said he has “absolutely” no qualms about selling to a medical marijuana producer. He shed tears Wednesday thinking about friends who suffered from opiate addiction, and believes medical marijuana could have helped some.
“It’s a shame it took so long (to legalize),” Hinkley said. “I don’t like big pharmaceuticals. If people would only open their eyes, they get so many people addicted to pills. … This is a great thing. Big pharmaceuticals, they’re killing people, man. ”
At least two neighbors voiced no objections to the plans.
Helma Hoepken, 78, a retired phlebotomist who lives at 1925 Rosanna, said she won’t object if the neighborhood remains quiet and sales stay limited to medical use. Hoepken has no philosophical objection to medical marijuana.
“It’s just like another medical facility,” Hoepken said. “When you read about it and people who have cancer and it alleviates their pain that they go through, it’s just like any other drug if it helps.”
Jodie Gay, 49, who owns a home at 1920 Rosanna, suffers from scoliosis, rheumatoid arthritis, a surgically repaired right knee and “a couple cracked discs” in his back. He is tired of the nation’s “1930s politics about pot and marijuana” and sees medical marijuana as a better alternative to opiates. He views the taxes it will produce as potential solutions to the nation’s deteriorating roads, bridges and sewers.
Lackawanna County District Attorney Shane Scanlon, who objects to going further than medical marijuana, plans to meet with the developers to ensure the plant operates safely and securely.
“My position is we will enforce the laws,” Scanlon said.
For now, barring any “glitches,” Mayor Bill Courtright backs the plant. Courtright remembered attorney Mark Walsh and former city clerk Jay Saunders, both friends who died of cancer.
“If medical marijuana could have made their suffering a bit less, I’m all for it,” Courtright said.
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