Eldred discusses medical marijuana
The Eldred Township Planning Commission on Wednesday discussed the possibility of medical marijuana growing and dispensaries, as well as the zoning they would choose for each respective aspect.
The state is looking to add two growers and four dispensaries within the northeastern region of Pennsylvania, which includes Eldred Township.
Growing facilities cannot be within 1,000 feet of schools, day cares and other facilities of this nature. Growing facilities and dispensaries also need to be a sizable distance away from each other.
Medical marijuana proved to be a fiery topic for Kunkletown residents.
“It is proven that medical marijuana has a huge impact in the opioid crisis, which has ravaged this community,” Kunkletown resident Marissa Strohlein said in support of the issue. “I have known and loved people that have become beasts I don’t recognize, because of an injury or something else had them prescribed oxycodone at a bad time in their life. They went from people I loved to animals I don’t recognize.”
Strohlein explained how medical marijuana would keep residents in Eldred, preventing it from becoming another small township that finds its population dwindling to ghostlike numbers. She also mentioned how important it is to have a dispensary close to home. This is due to low-income residents being unable to take lengthy trips to dispensaries.
Strohlein said she has been affected by the absence of medical marijuana personally because of her career as medical receptionist.
“I know children who have seizures 80 times a day who will be affected by this. And I know veterans who have PTSD, who are full of medications that numb them out and make them suicidal who will be affected by this.
“These are people I know and love. And you don’t know this about them, because you weren’t their medical receptionist, and I was.”
The Eldred Planning Commission viewed this subject pragmatically.
“I don’t see an investor coming to Eldred Township, because they’re going to be looking at population and demographics. Maybe things could be done at the state level,” planning commission Chairman Robert Boileau said.
Another consideration was that Eldred works in conjunction with the other four West End townships in the CJERP Regional Planning Commission that also includes Chestnuthill, Jackson, Ross and Polk townships.
It is considered a multi-municipal zoning area. The commission debated whether Eldred was the most suitable for growing facilities and dispensaries.
“What they have done, that group, they’ve taken advantage of the rule so long it’s in one of those places, it mitigates possible bad effects of some uses of property,” Solicitor Michael Gaul said.
He pointed out how Eldred doesn’t have that many zoning districts. They have only one industrial zoning district, which is where the growing facilities would be since marijuana is mostly grown indoors.
Gaul also considered the traffic issues it may create.
Boileau said he imagined dispensaries would be in commercial districts, treated the same way a pharmacy would.
During the middle of the meeting, he said he was wary of having medical marijuana in Eldred Township.
“I also understand that the state puts regulations that you can’t put it near a church or a school. So, there’s got to be some negative impact. Why wouldn’t they let you put it where you put any other industrial building? Boileau asked. “It does get seedy. I’m not talking about medical marijuana.
“It’s my belief it’s gonna go past that. It’s gonna go to recreational marijuana. I personally prefer that it would be in Chestnuthill Township. We still have access for the benefits of medical marijuana, and those who want recreational marijuana will have it, too. Just not in Eldred Township.”
Some of the public felt indifferent to these comments, Strohlein in particular.
“This place is pretty seedy, man,” she said. “Lots of meth heads and heroin addicts live here. You are turning your back on industry that will keep young people invested in their hometown. You are turning your back on money and handing that money to other townships.”
Boileau clarified his views did not reject medical marijuana totally, he just preferred to see it in another West End township.
The rest of the commission was open to both dispensaries and growing facilities. They thought, however, that Eldred would be more appropriate for growing facilities, because of its rural landscape.
By the end of the meeting, Boileau said he became open to the idea of medical marijuana in Eldred.