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Philadelphia's First Medical Marijuana Dispensary Opens In Fishtown

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Philadelphia's First Medical Marijuana Dispensary Opens In Fishtown
Medical marijuana dispensary Restore Integrative Wellness Center in Fishtown, Philadelphia

Philadelphia's first-ever medical marijuana dispensary has opened its doors.

Restore Integrative Wellness Center at 957 Frankford Ave. in Fishtown held its grand opening party May 2, culminating a process that began with the state law allowing cannabis to be prescribed for a list of specific conditions getting signed into law on April 27, 2016.

Principal Steve O and his wife, who declined to be named for the story, brought on Vip Patel as an angel investor and to run the day-to-day operations as chief operating officer. The three retained MPN Realty as brokers in the search for a space that could fit the specific needs of a dispensary. 

Restore scouted locations in Delaware, Bucks, Chester and Montgomery counties, where it was easier to find land, but settled on the city for its centrality. Though the team did not have Fishtown in mind specifically, its proximity to Center City as well as an exit of Interstate 95 put it in the "Goldilocks zone," Steve O said.

"I grew up here [in Philadelphia], and we knew that to serve the patient population to its highest potential, we had to be in the city," Steve O said.

Legally, a dispensary requires an indoor loading area, and practically, it requires much heavier security than a standard retail or healthcare operation. Steve O estimates 28 cameras were installed in and around the building. The former steel-welding facility at 957 Frankford, next to dance club The Barbary and across the street from the Fillmore entertainment complex, fit the bill as a one-story, 58K SF building with high enough ceilings for indoor loading.

Philadelphia's First Medical Marijuana Dispensary Opens In Fishtown
A counter within Restore Integrative Wellness Center, a medical marijuana dispensary in Fishtown, Philadelphia

Restore bought the land in October and tore down everything but the walls of the building, both for undisclosed prices — though Patel said the build-out cost "a pretty penny."

Situated at the southern end of Fishtown's Frankford Avenue, which Forbes called perhaps the hottest drag in urban America, Restore has worked to communicate with neighbors at the Barbary, the Fillmore and SugarHouse Casino.

Restore has also been in discussions with nearby Children's Crisis Treatment Center, since cannabis is permitted for certain pediatric uses. Currently, the center offers topical and pill forms of cannabis, as well as forms that can be vaporized below the threshhold of burning, such as wax and oil. This month, Pennsylvania also approved the use of bud and flower forms for medicinal use, and Steve O said Restore will roll out those products in July.

Edible forms of cannabis are still not permitted, but Restore will give advisory services on how customers can create their own. Cannabis is approved for patients diagnosed with conditions such as cancer, autism, Crohn's disease, Huntington's disease, chronic pain and epilepsy. Dispensaries are not allowed to be within 1,000 feet of schools or day care centers.