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Westmoreland

Greensburg medical marijuana dispensary opening delayed again until November

Jacob Tierney
| Thursday, June 28, 2018, 4:30 p.m.
Excavation is underway on East Pittsburgh Street in Greensburg, site of the future Keystone Integrated Care medical marijuana dispensary.
Jacob Tierney
Excavation is underway on East Pittsburgh Street in Greensburg, site of the future Keystone Integrated Care medical marijuana dispensary.
A concept rendering of a proposed medical marijuana dispensary at 303 E. Pittsburgh St. in Greensburg.
Submitted
A concept rendering of a proposed medical marijuana dispensary at 303 E. Pittsburgh St. in Greensburg.

Construction is underway for Westmoreland County's only medical marijuana dispensary, but the project has been delayed again.

Keystone Integrated Care now predicts its Greensburg facility will open in November. It was originally scheduled to open in March, then pushed to August.

Company founder Thomas Perko said it took longer than expected to line up contractors for the project.

Those contractors have been hired, and preliminary work has begun on the East Pittsburgh Street site.

"It's just a difficult plot of land," he said. "The delays are behind us, largely."

Pittsburgh contractor PW Campbell is in charge of construction.

Greensburg City Council first approved plans for the dispensary in September.

However, Keystone Integrated Care discovered the design it proposed was too expensive for the company to build, Perko said.

Developers came back to the city six months later with a revised plan for a smaller building. Council approved it, the two empty homes on the site were demolished, but construction never started.

City planning director Barbara Ciampini said she's been ready to issue a construction permit for more than a month, but Keystone Integrated Care never contacted the city.

"It was ready, we were just sitting here waiting, and we hadn't heard from them for the last 30 days," she said.

That changed last week when the company restarted the process with the city, which issued the permit Monday.

"We've got some movement on construction and a clear path forward," Perko said.

Hempfield medical marijuana patient Dot Alwine has two words of advice:

"Hurry up."

She got her medical marijuana card in March, with hopes of easing her arthritis pain. She thought she'd be able to buy the medicine close to home, but instead she's had to drive to the Solevo dispensary in Squirrel Hill, where she's faced long waits and product shortages.

The delays for the Greensburg facility have been frustrating, she said.

"It's disgusting, because it was supposed to open in March, and that's when I got my card," she said.

She hopes more dispensaries opening will make things easier for patients everywhere.

"I figure the more dispensaries they open, the less time I'll have to wait ... because there are more places to go," she said.

Only 20 of the 52 dispensary locations approved by the state last year are dispensing marijuana, said Nate Wardle, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Keystone Integrated Care is one of five permittees that hasn't scheduled a final inspection with the state. The company has 60 days to do so, though the inspection can be scheduled for later than 60 days out, Wardle said.

Though the Greensburg location is to be its flagship, Keystone Integrated Care has proposed two other locations, in Cranberry and Lawrenceville. Neither is operational.

The Greensburg location is going up on three adjacent lots, one of which was donated to the company by the city via the Westmoreland County Land Bank.

The dispensary will be eligible for a tax break through the city of Greensburg. It will get to keep 25 percent the property taxes they'd normally pay over the next ten years. It will pay 10 percent in taxes as normal and 65 percent into the "G-Fund," a special fund used to pay for city rehabilitation projects.

Though she was frustrated by the delays and lack of communication, Ciampini said she's excited to see the project move forward.

"The city is still very excited, and hopefully we will have the first dispensary in Westmoreland County," she said.

Three companies have applied to build dispensaries in Westmoreland County in the second phase of state permitting — two in New Stanton and one in Latrobe. The state is expected to issue permits by the end of the year.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646, jtierney@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Soolseem.

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