Bethlehem is getting ready for medical marijuana like other Lehigh Valley towns. 

Thursday afternoon the Bethlehem Planning Commission recommended city council approve a zoning amendment that lays out where in the city medical marijuana growers/processors, dispensaries and academic clinical research centers can set up shop. This is the first step in a lengthy process.

The proposal could result in patients filling prescriptions at a Stefko Boulevard dispensary while in a South Mountain research facility Lehigh scientists study the benefits of medical marijuana for St. Luke’s and nearby pot is growing in a secure warehouse in an industrial area.

That’s not to say that Bethlehem’s proposes allowing medical marijuana facilities to set up shop wherever they want. None are going to be able to open in the city’s urban core.

“Most of the city you can’t do it,” city Planning Director Darlene Heller said.

Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana in 2016 and the program is expected to be fully implemented in 2018. Every municipality in the state now must update its zoning, because state law requires allowing for every possible use within a zoning ordinance.

The Lehigh Valley’s two counties are among 10 that comprise a region where four dispensary permits and two grower/processor permits are set to be awarded.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health says it will accept permit applications until March 20 for medical marijuana growers/processors and dispensaries.

Bethlehem has fielded inquiries from some interested in setting up shop in the city, Heller said.

But the options of where those medical marijuana facilities can locate in the city are quite limited since state law prohibits dispensaries and grower/processors from being located within 1,000 feet of a school or daycare.

Want to grow,dispense marijuana in Pa.?

If a school opens after a medical marijuana facility is already operating the restriction does not apply.

Dispensaries will be highly regulated and prescriptions will be

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