Alternate site considered for medical marijuana dispensary

Original site may not be ready by state deadline

MUHLENBERG TWP., Pa. - The owners of a planned medical marijuana dispensary in Berks County are now considering an alternate property in Muhlenberg Township.

After realizing the cost of retrofitting the property at 2701 Fifth Street Highway, formerly Jack O’Reilly Tuxedos, would exceed the budgeted cost, Harvest LLC, doing business as SMPB Retail LLC, began looking at 3225 Fifth Street Highway, which would be more move-in ready.

Until last month, that site was to be developed by Reading Dispensary, which was also awarded a state license to operate a medical marijuana dispensary in Berks County. The company dropped its plans for the location in September because it didn't meet health department requirements, according to township officials.

Reading Dispensary has not yet announced an alternate site.

Jamal Abodalo, Muhlenberg Township's manager, explained that SMPB is looking at both properties in case the Pennsylvania Department of Health doesn't approve the alternate location.

After the meeting, Abodalo said SMPB's request for a conditional use approval for the second property might also be a result of the tight deadline the health department has given SMPB, which allows only about six months for the retrofit, including the procurement of all the approvals.

Abodalo said if SMPB were to go with the first location, it would need to request an extension from the health department; whereas, the property at 3225 Fifth Street Highway may be able to be completed by the deadline.

The conditional use hearing for the property at 3225 Fifth Street Highway is Saturday, October 21, at 11 a.m.

The township commissioners also approved a host agreement with SMPB for an additional community fee schedule of 1 percent of gross sales for the first five years, 2-1/2 percent for years six through 10, and 5 percent after 10 years.

After the meeting, Abodalo said that, while the township welcomes a marijuana dispensary, "We don't know how these marijuana dispensaries or growers will fit into our community. Is this a call for more police or more emergency services?"

Any additional costs, he said, should be paid by the marijuana dispensary not the taxpayers.

Commissioner Michael Malinowski urged residents to attend the commissioners's budget workshop meeting on Saturday, October 28, at 8 a.m. to learn how the budget is determined and where their tax dollars are spent.

In addition to the two licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries in Berks, two other companies were awarded licenses to operate growing facilities in the county.

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