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First Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Pennsylvania Opens Amid Support and Concern From Residents

Keystone Canna
Keystone Canna

This week, Keystone Canna Remedies, Pennsylvania’s first medical marijuana dispensary opened in Bethlehem. While many are happy to see the medical marijuana get off the ground, some are worried about crime and second amendment restrictions.

Bethlehem, Pa.- Marijuana became legal in Pennsylvania when Senate Bill 3 was approved in 2016. Keystone Canna Remedies, the state’s first dispensary, finally opened this week in Bethlehem.

Many, including former Philadelphia Flyers winger Riley Cote are excited that patients will be able to access medicine and relief in Pennsylvania. Cote spent several years in the National Hockey League and took quite a bit of physical punishment during his time as a professional player.

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“Medical cannabis has been a godsend for me,” Cote told ABC affiliate WPVI.

The NHL has a more lenient policy toward marijuana than the other major sports and it currently is not included on the league’s list of banned substances.

But some local residents are not entirely thrilled about the idea of a marijuana dispensary opening near their homes.

“I’m not happy with it. We have a pretty safe neighborhood. There [has] been a little bit of crime here but now I’m concerned,”Linda Schultz said.

Bradley Carlson, Pharmacy Director of Keystone Canna Remedies, was confident the data was on the side of legal medical marijuana.

“Take the opportunity to educate yourself on what does exist currently.” Carlson said. “The literature, the anecdotal evidence, which is overwhelming. Cannabis, marijuana, is medicine.”

Carlson’s view could be bolstered by a new study that showed violent crime actually going down in states that legalized medical marijuana.

But there another controversial issue that residents of Pennsylvania may have to deal with. Like Maryland, residents in Pennsylvania may have to choose between their Second Amendment rights. Federal law prohibits users of illegal drugs from owning firearms. Although many residents in Pennsylvania are known for loving their guns, state authorities are signaling that they will not let medical marijuana patients hold on to them.

“They’re going to have to make a choice,” said John T. Adams, president of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association. “They can have their guns or their marijuana, but not both.”

Still, there are questions about how this policy will play out. Will patients be asked to surrender their guns, as they have been in Hawaii? Or will medical marijuana patients be prevented from making new gun purchases? What about patients who receive guns as gifts?

Perhaps a solution could come from Congress. The Marijuana Justice Act has been been introduced by U.S. House reps this week. Passage of the Marijuana Justice Act would remove marijuana from the federal list of banned substances and likely allow patients to keep their firearms.

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