A second medical marijuana dispensary in eastern Chester County is moving forward with the owner planning to open in late February.
TerraVida Holistic Centers is working on its Planebrook Road property near Malvern, where a significant renovation project is under way to meet state requirements for a facility selling marijuana-based products prescribed by a doctor.
Chris Visco, president of the woman-owned business, said TerraVida originally planned to put the dispensary in a former bank building in East Mount Airy.
Due to political wrangling, she said, plans for that location were dropped and Malvern was chosen to join the company’s two other locations — one in Sellersville, Bucks County, and one in Abington, Montgomery County.
“It will be an amazing location,” Visco said of 249 Planebrook Road, a former auto parts store at the corner of Route 30.
TerraVida, based in Erdenheim, Montgomery County, joins Keystone Shops Dispensary on Lancaster Avenue in Devon as locations that have received the OK to sell medical marijuana products.
Medical marijuana in Pennsylvania has been approved for 17 conditions: ALS, autism, cancer, Crohn’s Disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Huntington’s Disease, inflammatory bowel disease, intractable spasticity, Multiple Sclerosis, neuropathies, Parkinson’s Disease, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Sickle Cell Anemia and severe chronic or intractable pain.
Currently there are 13,000 people in Pennsylvania registered to receive medical marijuana, 40 percent of whom live in the southeastern part of the state, Visco said, adding that 500 doctors are registered to prescribe medical marijuana in the state as well.
To be eligible to purchase the products patients must have a card issued by the state, which costs $50 for processing. She said anyone who wants to purchase products from TerraVida and who hasn’t registered should do so now because it will take about the same amount of time to get a card as it will for the company to get the new operation ready to open.
When renovations are complete, the building will have outdoor security cameras and the inside will have security doors to give access only to those with cards. It also will have a stonewall waterfall, a refreshment bar and areas to consult with staff.
“We’re trying to create an entire atmosphere for people” Visco said. “This is not a head shop. We want to take away the stigma (of using medical marijuana). We are required to have a pharmacist on site. We have 24-7 surveillance.”
The national trend is heading toward acceptance of marijuana for medical use, Visco said, pointing to the 29 states that now have approved its use.
“Ninety-five percent of the population in the U.S. has access to either medical or legal marijuana,” she said.
On their first visit, patients will meet with the on-site pharmacist to match their conditions with the right products, she said. Patients receive prescriptions for no more than 30 days, she added.
There are no marijuana bud or leaf sales in medical marijuana dispensaries. The products come in pills, tinctures, vape cartridges, topicals and concentrates. Visco said a “budtender” will help clients determine what product is best to use for their conditions.
Medical marijuana is not covered by insurance, Visco said.
“Our goal is to keep prices as low as possible to lower the burden on the patient,” said Visco, who started TerraVida with Adina Birnbaum.
On its website TerraVida notes that its 4,000-squre-foot Malvern location is within four miles of both Paoli and Bryn Mawr Rehab hospitals, giving them access to many patients.
And, unlike her experience in Philadelphia, the Chester County municipality for the new location was welcoming.
“East Whiteland Township is a medical marijuana friendly community which issued TerraVida Holistic Centers zoning immediately upon request,” the company wrote on its website.
“We will be working closely with the township to identify community needs and opportunities for educational forums.”