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An Aliquippa medical marijuana dispensary is now slated to open in mid-December, with applications for its 20 expected jobs to be taken some time in November.
Josh Genderson, founder and chief executive officer of parent company Holistic Industries, told BeaverCountian.com that previous plans for a summer opening became unrealistic as property acquisition time, environmental concerns and permitting were taken into account.
Noticeable construction work on the county’s first dispensary, now to be named Liberty, will start by the end of this month, he said.
When finished, the store will look like a cross between a high-end health spa and an Apple Store, another company executive previously said.
Genderson said the sale of the property at 2320 Sheffield Road is now complete and permitting is in place. Some pre-construction work has been done, and the company is currently working with the city on a traffic study.
Three dispensaries the company runs in the eastern part of the state see 80-100 customers a day, Genderson said.
“We moved as quickly as humanly possible,” Genderson said of the Aliquippa project, but closing the transaction on the property “took longer than we thought.” He declined to give a sale price with previous owner Albert Unis.
Genderson said Aliquippa City Manager Sam Gill and Mayor Dwan Walker in particular have been “very welcoming.” The property previously operated partially as a bar and partially as a garage, he said, and required some environmental cleanup.
Genderson said time also has been spent speaking to neighbors about the project. “We’re going to build a beautiful store,” he said, adding that it will also make the block “prettier.”
He said city residents have been “very receptive,” and that educational outreach will be conducted prior to opening.
Genderson said a total of 20 people will be hired: 14 full-time and six part-time employees, included three pharmacists. 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 store will be open seven days a week, with hours of 11 a.m. to 6 or 7 p.m. daily. He said every effort will be made to hire local people.
“We’re very committed to hiring as many local job applicants as possible,” he said. Aliquippa was chosen as a location because the state strongly encouraged companies to locate in designated financially distressed communities, such as the city.
Genderson said he expects the dispensary will draw economic growth to the area.
“In our experience, people who come in tend to visit restaurants and coffee shops. They experience the city,” he said.
“We’re really, really, really proud of what we do,” he added, as well as the medicinal products the company provides.
Holistic Industries owns and operates medical cannabis facilities in the District of Columbia and in four states, including Pennsylvania. Genderson said Holistic will open two more dispensaries in the region, one in Pittsburgh and one in a location yet to be determined.
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 2018. Dry leaf – only allowed to be used by vape – became available last August.
Liberty 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.
Last month, the state added anxiety disorders and Tourette’s syndrome to the list of qualifying disorders that can be treated with medical marijuana. Other qualifying illnesses include terminal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic pain and multiple sclerosis.
To participate in the program, patients must apply for a medical marijuana card with the Department of Health and have a qualifying doctor’s recommendation — similar to a prescription.
More information about the state’s medical marijuana program can be found at medicalmarijuana.pa.gov.