ASTON >> A proposal to bring a medical marijuana grow house, where cannabis plants will be grown and later processed into oils, concentrates and tinctures for patients has been suggested for Aston Township.

In a few weeks, applications from all across the state to establish grow houses and dispensaries will begin arriving at the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The finite number of permits available means that the demand for prime locations outside of Philadelphia makes Delaware County an attractive market for medical cannabis.

Throughout the state there will be 27 primary dispensary permits and two grow houses distributed among six regions. Dispensary permits allow up to three total locations – the primary location, and then two additionals – in which an operator must establish the secondary locations within the same region, but in a different county.

The Southeast region is made up of eight counties – Philadelphia, Bucks, Delaware, Chester, Montgomery, Lancaster, Berks and Schuylkill counties – and like the six others may have two grow houses in the region. However, the southeast has the highest allotment of dispensary permits in the state with 10 of the 27 total.

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Philadelphia may have up to three primary dispensary permits, while Montgomery has two, Delaware County along with Berks, Bucks, Chester and Lancaster, each have one primary permit.

Since each permit grants up to three locations, which all must be in different counties than the primary location, Delaware County likely will be a popular destination for the second and third location of dispensaries based primarily in Philadelphia, Montgomery and surrounding counties.

“When you have three dispensaries on one license, and then only one primary in each of the three counties in the southeast, you can see why that makes Delaware County so attractive,” said Sen. Daylin Leach, D-17, of Haverford, who introduced the Medical Cannabis bill along with Sen. Mike Folmer, R-48, of Lebanon.

The grow house up for debate this week in Aston would be only one of two grow houses in the region, and one of 10 total in the state.

Last July, Dr. Howard Strauss, a retired dentist who owns and serves as director of the AIDS Care Group located in Sharon Hill, proposed to Trainer Borough Council bringing a dispensary to the site of the former Rick’s Restaurant and Tavern along Ninth Street.

For dispensaries, the sole primary location available in Delaware County will be fiercely contested for by dispensary operators looking to expand a secondary location to Philadelphia.

The applications were first released on Jan. 17, and they will be accepted between Feb. 20 and March 20. Each dispensary and grow house permit application will be subject to a scoring rubric of 1,000 total points with the “best” being chosen for the first phase. There will be 23 additional dispensary permits released in phase two.

Each permit applicant must give a description of their business organization and activities, subject to a federal and state criminal background check, offer a statement indicating they are of good moral character, prove the ability to maintain effective security and control to prevent diversion, abuse or other illegal conduct and provide a diversity plan.

After completion of a two-hour training course, the applicant must submit a permit along with a non-refundable fee of $5,000, a permit fee of $30,000, which is refundable if the permit is not granted and proof of $150,000 in capital.

Leach’s office said the Department of Health estimated about 900 applications would be sent in during the month-long period, but indicated the actual number won’t be known until the application process has ended.

For now, Leach said, he’ll continue working on the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board, which operates from within the Department of Health, and consists of members including the Secretary of Health, the Physician General, State Police Commissioner, chair of the State Board of Pharmacy, commissioner of Professional and Occupational Affairs, the president of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, the president of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and members to be appointed by the governor and six appointees from the legislative caucuses.

“We’re constantly making recommendations on regulations,” Leach said, joking about how much of the work is now out of his hands. “Pretty soon I’ll just be at ribbon cuttings.”

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