Bethlehem Press

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Bethlehem Township-Medical marijuana dispensary approved

Tuesday, June 13, 2017 by Bernie O’Hare Special to the Bethehem Press in Local News

In a few weeks, Pennsylvania’s Department of Health will issue up to 12 permits for medical marijuana grower/processors and as many as 27 dispensaries. One of these may be in Bethlehem Township. At their June 5 meeting, commissioners voted 3-0 in favor of a medical marijuana dispensary in a flex building at 2467 Baglyos Circle.

If the state grants a permit, the facility will be owned and operated by Brooklyn cardiologist Victor Guadagnino and his family. Dr. Guadagnino has practiced medicine in New York for 30 years. His son, Victor Jr, works with him and has a master’s degree in bioethics. He was the chief witness presented by flamboyant Easton attorney Gary Asteak at a June 5 hearing before Bethlehem Township commissioners.

Victor Guadagnino Jr. explained that the product will be delivered in package form, supplied by a delivery truck from a grower or processor. It will be stored in a vault that is monitored 24/7, even when the facility is closed. In an open lobby there will be two consultation rooms from which a physician can determine whether a prescription is appropriate. If so, the patient will advance to the dispensary, where his prescription will be filled with the product in closed containers.

Physicians registered with the Medical Marijuana Program may prescribe medical marijuana for patients with specified serious medical conditions, from cancer to epilepsy. The patients themselves will have to be registered and have a prescription.

The marijuana itself is in various forms, but not as a plant to be smoked. It could be a pill, tincture, cream, liquid or oil.

In response to questioning from Asteak, Guadagnino stated there would be no grower or processor on site. No outdoor seating. No vending machines. No onsite product use. No drive thru. There would be a single secure entrance for patients. It would be completely invisible, said Asteak.

The dispensary will be inside an industrial park and at least 1,000 feet from any school or daycare. It will, however, be close to a residential area currently being built.

Maria Cintron, owner of Bikram Yoga at 2471 Baglyos Circle, said 75-80 percent of her customers tell her they will go somewhere else if a medical marijuana dispensary opens. “I’m here on behalf of my customers,” she said, adding that some of them are children between 6-15 years old. She suggested that Guadagnino find another place for a dispensary, and told commissioners she has invested $300,000 into her business.

“I don’t think the board can direct where businesses are located,” Malissa Davis told Cintron. She said that once people see how this business operates, they should be satisfied. Asteak added, “Hopefully, your customers will understand. One day they’re going to get old, despite the fact that they do yoga.”

Tom Nolan said, “We have no choice. It’s a state law.”

Solicitor Jim Broughal had previously urged the township to adopt a medical marijuana ordinance so that the board has some control over where dispensaries and other marijuana facilities are located.

Federal law still proscribes the possession and distribution of marijuana, although a 2013 memo from the Department of Justice indicates it will defer to the states unless minors are involved or a dispensary is a pretext for dealing in other drugs.

In addition to Nolan and Davis, Kim Jenkins voted in favor of the dispensary. Michael Hudak and Pat Breslin were absent.

In other business, Nolan, Davis and Jenkins voted to award the long-awaited Brodhead Road reconstruction project to H and K Group for $2.35 million. H and K was the lowest of three bidders. All three bids were within $7,000 of each other. “We would have been happy with any of the three bidders,” said Township engineer Brian Dillman.

H and K will reconstruct 6,500 feet of Brodhead Road, from Township Line Road to Christian Springs Road. The remaining work will be done by developer Lew Ronca, who is building a warehouse distribution center.

“We should have a brand new Brodhead Road by the end of October,” predicted Dillman, who told commissioners work will start in early July.

Manager Melissa Shafer advised that the township did receive a $400,000 grant for this work, and that business owners along the road will be required to install ramps.