The City of Monongahela Planning Commission will air an amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance that would include provisions for medical marijuana growing and dispensary shops.

The commission is asking any resident or property owner in the city with concerns to attend a public hearing at 5 p.m. on March 20 in council chambers, 449 W. Main St.

Interest in the proposal is not clear. The city office did not have a text of a proposed ordinance available and its tax office said it had not received any inquiries about growing or dispensing medical marijuana or cannabis.

However, at last week’s city council meeting, Solicitor Keith Bassi said he has been reviewing the state’s new medical marijuana law, Act 16 of 2016, to determine what the city may need to do to accommodate future requests.

“There are certain restrictions on locations, but you can’t prohibit them,” Bassi said.

The city solicitor said the planning commission’s hearing process would be followed by recommendations that then could be considered by council.

March 20 is also the deadline for applications to the state Department of Health for permits to grow, process or dispense the drug for medical purposes.

State law allows cannabis to be prescribed for 17 medical conditions including epilepsy, autism and chronic pain.

Under Act 16 as signed last April by Gov. Tom Wolf, cannabis can be processed into pills, oils, topical forms such as gels, creams or ointments, forms that could be administered with an inhaler or nebulizer, tinctures or liquids. Smoking is not on the list.

The DOH could issue 25 permits for grower/processor operations and 50 for dispensaries, but instead it plans to issue 12 permits for grower/processors, two in each of six regions including the 11 southwestern counties around Pittsburgh, and 27 permits for dispensaries, including five in the southwestern counties.

There is no limitation as to where a grower/processor can locate within a given region, but primary permits for dispensaries will be limited to two for Allegheny County and one each to the counties of Butler, Westmoreland and Washington.

Those seeking both grower/processor and dispensary permits likely won’t get both. State health officials said no more than five grower/processors also may be issued a dispensary permit.

Based on surveys and on expressions of interest, Department of Health spokeswoman April Hutcheson said her agency was anticipating as many as 900 applications. An update on the application process was not available at presstime.

“The (DOH) has set up an objective scoring metric to score the applications,” state Sen. Pat Stefano, R-Bullskin Township, said in a January interview. “I’m hopeful that applicants in our area fare well as their proposals are vetted.”

Stefano co-sponsored the medical marijuana bill. He also said that he understood the department would do a full allotment of permits in phases beyond that which concludes with the March 20 deadline.

There have been at least four expressions of interest in medical marijuana facilities in area counties, including Maitri Medicinals’ plan for a production and processing facility at 316 Finley Road in Rostraver Township.

Maitri CEO Corinne Ogrodnik told Rostraver’s zoning hearing board that 3,000-5,000 medical cannabis plants would be grown inside the building and processing equipment would extract cannabis oil from the plants. The oil in turn would be placed in capsules and lotions and distributed to dispensaries, where patients with medical marijuana prescriptions could buy it.

She told the board that up to 50 people eventually would be employed, all screened by background checks required under state law.

In Monessen, Shah Dawud El-Bey and his wife Zenobia Nabilia El-Bey said they planned to seek permits as both a grower and a dispensary.

The El-Beys have two entities, for-profit Natanni Inc. and non-profit The Right Way To Go Inc.

“I am a professional licensed cultivator in the fields of organic vegetation and medical marijuana,” Shaw Dawud El-Bey stated on his LinkedIn page. “I am currently seeking to negotiate international trade deals (and) looking for a business partner to link up for (a) Pennsylvania medical marijuana permit and organic vegetable grow-op.”

Tom Seaman hopes to secure a permit in Upper Tyrone Township, just over the Fayette County line from Scottdale, where he’d convert a wholesale warehouse to operate as a medical cannabis business.

Some of Seaman’s business partners include his son-in-law Jon Lori, Fox Chapel businessman Tim Maziarz and Joe Hartoyo, who is the head technology officer at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Also in Fayette on Feb. 14 that county’s planning commission recommended that the county board of commissioners approve rezoning property located mostly in German Township so as to make possible a variety of uses, including a potential medical marijuana growing and processing facility.

Redstone Commercial Realty LLC is requesting to rezone the property between McClellandtown and Balsinger roads from general business to light industrial, contingent upon full rezoning approval from South Union Township, where nearly three acres of an approximate 10-acre lot are located.

Redstone lawyer Jeffrey Proden said his clients, realty members Duane Yost and James Jones, want to lease two warehouse buildings that already sit on the property for light industrial use and construct a third building to lease for the same usage.

County Planning, Zoning and Community Development Director Sara Rosiek said Act 16 has a zoning section that states a grower or processor must meet the same municipal zoning and land use requirements as other manufacturing, processing and production facilities in the same zoning district.

The German Township Board of Supervisors expressed support for a medical marijuana growing and processing facility in a letter sent to county planners on Jan. 18. Proden said he understood that South Union’s board of supervisors would follow the county’s action.

Not far to the north of the region, McKeesport City Council has approved a conditional use that would allow PurePenn LLC of Pittsburgh to develop a production and processing facility at 321 Locust St., a 40-acre site whose property and building currently are valued at $900,000.

That location is just inside the Regional Industrial Development Corp. of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s Riverplace Industrial Center of McKeesport, on property once occupied by U.S. Steel’s National Tube Works.

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