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City Councilwoman Wants Buffer Between Day Care Centers And Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- City Councilwoman Cherelle Parker, on Thursday, introduced a bill that would bar medical marijuana dispenaries in Philadelphia, within 500 feet of a day care center.

Parker introduced the legislation after receiving complaints when the Department of Licenses and Inspections granted a zoning permit for a dispensary in the 8300 block of Stenton Avenue, which is across the back from a home day care center.

Parker noted, in introducing the bill, that the city had asked for and received a waiver from the state, creating a 500 foot buffer zone around schools, rec centers, libraries and day care centers but  day care centers had been left out of the city's dispensary zoning legislation.

Parker held a community meeting Tuesday night at which, she said, residents expressed support for medical marijuana but a strong desire to create distance between a dispensary and facilities for children and, consequently, opposition to a dispensary at the Stenton Avenue site.

Parker said she was appealing the zoning permit, which she learned of only after it had been granted.

"We were shocked because no one had even given us a courtesy, the district council person whose job is to monitor land use in the area, so that we could have at least communicated with residents who live in the area," Parker said.

One of the applicants, Chris Visco, said she would fight the appeal. Visco and a partner have a contract to purchase the property and are also applying for a state license to operate a dispensary there.

Visco maintains day care centers were specifically left out of the city's zoning rules; otherwise, she said, it would be impossible to locate a dispensary in the city of Philadelphia.

"There are day care centers on every corner," she said.

Several council members disagreed with Visco. Councilmembers Bill Greenlee, Mark Squilla, Cindy Bass and Parker herself said they were unaware day care centers had been left out of the city zoning ordinance.

L&I has approved seven zoning permits so far, including the one for Stenton Avenue.

The state has received more than 60 dispensary applications for the Southeast region, which includes Philadelphia. It plans to award ten for the city. A decision is expected by the end of June.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect that Chris Viscos applied for the permit, not the current owner, who was listed on the permit application.

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