Medical marijuana may soon be available in Venango County.
Since state legislation to allow legal access to medical marijuana was passed in April 2016, two dispensaries have applied for licenses in Venango County, with one looking to locate in Oil City and the other in Seneca.
Global Resource Operations, a Ringgold-based company, is tentatively eyeing a location adjacent to Parker Furniture on Route 257 in Seneca.
Parker said the dispensary would operate much like a pharmacy with both a medical doctor and pharmacist on staff.
“Anytime that a place is open we would have one or the other medical professionals there,” Parker said.
Parker, who lives in Tennessee, said her desire to bring a dispensary to Seneca is rooted in a desire to return to her hometown area as well as to bring the medicine to an underserved area.
“We plotted out an area that has about 300,000 people with Seneca being the central point,” she said. “There’s nothing in all the rural communities around it. If people want to try the medicine, if it’s important to their condition, there’s nothing available.”
Global Resource also plans to have a van service to bring people to the dispensary as needed.
“You can’t deliver the medicine under Pennsylvania law, but you can deliver people to the dispensary,” Parker said. “We’ll get them there.”
Parker said the products will be purely medicinal in compliance with Pennsylvania law.
“We’ll just make sure we’re good corporate citizens,” Parker said. “We definitely want to hire local. I want the people who want to be there.”
While a variety of products will be available, Parker said one thing that won’t be found at the dispensary is marijuana in its most familiar form.
“It’s not for smoking,” she said, “Most of the stuff sold won’t even get you high. It will be pain medicine. I think a lot of people don’t understand the medical side of it.”
Meanwhile, a dispensary known as Calumet Care, affiliated with Grassroots Cannabis, has a license pending to operate in Oil City.
Rick Cook, the city’s zoning officer, says Calumet Care plans to operate out of a building at 217 Seneca St. between the Venango County Republican Party headquarters and the former location of the Northside Eatery restaurant.
Cook said he was contacted and asked if Oil City had any ordinances above and beyond what the state requires, which it does not.
“They would be treated like any other business,” Cook said. “It’s a legal product. We couldn’t keep it out and I don’t know why we would want to if it’s distributed for medical use.”
James indicated that his decision to vote against the bill was mostly due to law enforcement having to walk the line between federal and state law.
“It’s putting the law enforcement folks in an unusual position,” James said. “Do they follow the federal law or do they follow Pennsylvania law? I’m not going to speculate how law enforcement is going to work on this.”
Marijuana is still classified as a schedule one substance under federal law.
“I’ve heard that medical marijuana offers some relief,” James said. “The big problem is the fact that the feds have never truly studied the effects of marijuana.”
Oil City police chief Bob Wenner said medical marijuana, as the law stands, doesn’t present a dilemma to police.
“I see no issue with conflict for law enforcement between possession of illegal marijuana and medical marijuana,” Wenner said. “This is not going to be the loose marijuana that’s used for smoking.”
Wenner said that as laws change, police receive updated guidance and adapt accordingly.
“We’ll respond appropriately as case law comes out on it,” Wenner said. “We learn. We adapt. We get guidance from the attorney general and the district attorney and we go from there.”