by Brendan Sample

After months of debate and pushback from members of the community, TerraVida Holistic Centers announced that it would be moving its approved marijuana dispensary from the proposed location in East Mt. Airy. While a new location has not been officially chosen, TerraVida Chief Operating Officer Chris Visco confirmed that the company would still be looking to keep the dispensary in Philadelphia.

“The neighbors have spoken and we have listened,” Visco said. “While we can move to neighboring counties, we would like to remain in Philadelphia given the very limited access patients will have with very few dispensaries planning to open within the county.”

Residents had been vocal about their opposition to the location since late April, as they poured out to public meetings and expressed their concerns regarding its proximity to a daycare and potential issues with crime and parking. These problems were focused specifically around the proposed 8319 Stenton Ave. location, as there was no major resistance to the general use of medical marijuana.

In addition to opposition coming from the neighbors, several city and state representatives also fought against the proposed location including City Councilwomen Cherelle Parker and Cindy Bass, State Rep. Chris Rabb and State Sen. Art Haywood. Parker in particular has been staunchly opposed to the spot, having formally appealed the permit for the location, which resulted in an official hearing held last month. While the hearing was ultimately adjourned and set to be resumed on Sept. 19, more than 100 Mt. Airy neighbors were still able to make their strong opposition heard by TerraVida.

“Residents effectively articulated their concerns, even as others tried to mischaracterize their passion,” Parker said. “This news is truly a testament to their commitment and their advocacy.”

As TerraVida looks for a new dispensary location, it will continue to work with the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program to find a place that will best fit Philadelphia’s needs. The company is hoping to remain in the same area in order to continue providing those who have limited access to medical marijuana with the care they require.

“This is obviously great news for the community, which was never opposed to medical marijuana but did not want a dispensary in their residential neighborhood,” Bass said. “I’m ecstatic that we found a solution that could work for everyone.”

As of the official announcement, TerraVida did not have a new location narrowed down beyond somewhere else in Philadelphia. However long it may take to find a place and officially open a dispensary, several local government officials, including some who were opposed to the Mt. Airy location, will continue to support the relocation efforts.

“Where the dispensary goes will primarily be a city issue due to zoning regulations, and I look forward to working with any and all local elected officials with whom I share constituents in Mt. Airy, Chestnut Hill and West Oak Lane who want fellow residents in northwest Philadelphia to have access to this vital medical treatment option as close to home as possible,” Rabb said.

While the issue of the specific location has certainly been a matter of controversy, Visco and her team will continue to commit to serving the area beyond what they have already done.

“This industry provides an abundance of care to patients in need, as well as significant economic opportunities in the way of jobs and tax revenue,” Visco said. “Our intention is not to abandon all of the patients in desperate need of holistic care.”

More information on TerraVida can be found here.