A medical marijuana dispensary plans to open this summer in Aliquippa and employ 25-30 part- and full-time workers.
Sunrise Organic Wellness LLC has an option to purchase a building owned by Albert Unis at 2320 Sheffield Road for its facility, which would be the first dispensary in Beaver County.
Sunrise Founder Keith Morgan said the building, which is located just a few door-fronts from Breezy’s Pizza, “is in pretty good shape” though it may not look like it now from the outside.
He said its interior would be renovated to look like a cross “between a high-end health spa and an Apple Store.”
Morgan said the current building is bigger than the 3,000 square feet he expects the dispensary to fill. He said the company spends close to $1 million per location on renovations and facility needs.
Sunrise is part of a family of companies under the umbrella of Holistic Industries, which owns and operates medical cannabis facilities in the District of Columbia and in four states, including Pennsylvania.
The state Department of Health last month granted Sunrise, which has administrative offices in Montgomery County, one of 23 final dispensary permits.
DOH Press Secretary Nate Wardle said that the second phase of permits brought their number to 50, the maximum allowed by law. However, each of those 50 has the ability to apply for up to three total locations.
Including the additional locations already applied for, 79 dispensary sites in the state are either operating, awaiting final inspection or final permitting, Wardle said. Dispensaries must apply for other locations within the region they received the permit.
In addition, the state has also issued the maximum 25 grower/processor permits allowed by law.
Each dispensary was given six months to prove facility compliance with commercial-grade security and surveillance; criminal background checks of company principals, financial backers and employees; and proper product handling and storage.
The state also requires dispensaries to not be within 1,000 feet of schools or daycare centers.
Morgan said Tuesday that he expects the Aliquippa facility to meet all requirements. He said the dispensary will be called Sunrise Wellness.
Morgan said Aliquippa was chosen because the state “strongly encouraged” companies to locate in designated financially distressed communities, such as the city.
Sunrise worked with a local broker to find the property and it was chosen to comply with all pertinent local and state laws, he added. Morgan wouldn’t reveal the purchase price, and Unis could not be reached for comment. A woman who identified herself as the manager of a next-door bar said she knew nothing about the impending sale.
Gov. Tom Wolf signed the bill legalizing medical marijuana for qualifying patients into law in 2016. Dispensaries began selling it in the form of pills, oils, tinctures and ointments in February of last year. Dry leaf – only allowed to be used by vape – became available in August.
Morgan said Sunrise Wellness will carry a variety of products, including Liberty brand products grown at a sister facility in New Castle, another town chosen because of its financially distressed designation.
Morgan said Sunrise will be looking to fill jobs at the Aliquippa location “probably in May,” six to eight weeks before the expected opening. Each dispensary is required to have a pharmacist or licensed medical professional on site at all times, but jobs will also include managers, wellness consultants and receptionists.
The state Medical Marijuana Advisory Board could vote as early as Friday on whether to add more qualifying conditions, such as anxiety or depression, to the list of 21 serious conditions permitted to be treated with cannabis.
Wardle said more than 105,600 patients have registered with the program, and more than 76,000 have been issued a patient certification.
“We have close to 12,500 caregivers registered with the program, and have had more than 554,000 dispensing events (each time a patient visits a dispensary and makes a purchase counts as an event),” Wardle said. “There are over 1,000 physicians approved as certified practitioners, and close to 1,450 registered with the program.”
More information about the program can be found at medicalmarijuana.pa.gov.
Anyone who wants to submit a comment regarding a dispensary should contact their local municipality, Wardle said. Questions for the medical marijuana program can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.