The second medical marijuana dispensary in Bethlehem will open within the year on 3650 Linden Street in the Linden Street shopping center. The city hopes to fight the opioid epidemic by offering prescribed marijuana as an alternative to opioids to manage pain. (Courtesy of Google Maps)

Second medical marijuana dispensary to open in Bethlehem

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The city of Bethlehem is preparing for the opening of Hayden Gateway LLC, the city’s second medical marijuana dispensary, at 3650 Linden St.

Hayden Gateway LLC is under the ownership of Justice Grown, which owns two stores in Pennsylvania. Justice Grown management declined to comment on the dispensary’s development.

Victor Guadagnino, the chief business officer at Keystone Canna Remedies, said the Lehigh Valley is permitted to have 21 dispensaries, and there are currently fewer than 10. Keystone Canna Remedies, which opened in February 2018, is one of Bethlehem’s current dispensaries.

“When we first opened, we saw an average of 30 patients and then grew to 300 on a busy day,” Guadagnino said.

He said the company put on seminars for doctors and patients on medical marijuana for the months leading up to the dispensary’s opening.

The Pennsylvania Office of Medical Marijuana admits permits within the health department to distribute medical marijuana, Guadagnino said.

“You have to apply, and you’re graded based on your application, and the application can cover everything from security protocols to inventory management to your business plan,” Guadagnino said. “The application is a rubric by region.”

Hayden Gateway LLC has obtained state permits to open, Guadagnino said.

Easton Councilman Peter Melan said an additional dispensary in Bethlehem will create more competition and decrease pricing. 

“Any more dispensaries that can offer my citizens remedies, helping a cause, I support,” Melan said. 

However, Guadagnino said the market for medical marijuana has a high enough demand that another dispensary should not be a threat.

“There’s enough patient base from multiple dispensaries in the area,” Guadagnino said. “And the patient base is continuing to grow.”

St. Luke’s University Health Network and Lehigh Valley Health Network have private practitioners that have started to utilize medical marijuana in their treatment processes and claim to have seen vast improvements in their patient’s health care, Guadagnino said. 

Bethlehem Councilwoman Olga Negrón said medical marijuana could contribute to fixing the opioid crisis.

Negrón said through the research she has done, she has found medical marijuana can act as a non-addictive substitute to those with chronic pain. She said she has found that medical marijuana is the most proactive way for patients to handle pain. 

“I hear from my constituents, ‘My doctor prescribed me medical marijuana, but my insurance doesn’t cover it, and I don’t have the money,'” Negrón said. 

Negrón said she was a proponent of the ordinance to decriminalize marijuana in Bethlehem. She said she hopes at the next public safety committee meeting, there will be plans to further implement the ordinance.

At the last public safety committee meeting, Negrón said Bethlehem Police Department Chief Mark DiLuzio said so far, the ordinance has not been utilized frequently.

“It really upsets me that even though we passed an ordinance, people are still getting a criminal record for small amounts of marijuana,” Negrón said.

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