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New Castle’s zoning board of appeals unanimously approved a request to add seven more parking spaces to a new medical marijuana dispensary on Sampson Street set to become operational in August.

“We’re pleased to be able to enter Pennsylvania and try to lead the nation in cannabis-related research,” said Raj Mukherji, co-owner of CannTech PA, LLC and chief executive officer of the national CannTech companies.

CannTech was awarded one of four available clinical registrants — facilities that grow, process and dispense marijuana for research institutions — in late February for the property at 809 Sampson St. 

CannTech contracted with Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) in Erie.

“This is a very innovative clinical research program, “ Mukherji said. “This is the first of its kind in the nation.”

Because marijuana remains illegal federally, medical marijuana research proves difficult to do.

The state will allow eight clinical registrants to open statewide and seven have already been awarded.

According to the city’s zoning ordinances, 12.4 parking spaces are required per the building’s square footage. Since there are only seven at the building’s location, the appeal for approval of use to lease seven parking spaces at the adjacent 811 Sampson St. was submitted.

Since the appeal was approved, the facility will have 14 spaces for both employees and patrons.

Mukherji expects between 15 and 25 total employees and between four and six working at one time.

The expected hours of operation are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.

The facility must be inspected by the state before it will be allowed to open.

Since registrants must be operational within six months of the permit issue date, per the state’s medical marijuana statutes, attorney Jim Diamond of Eckert Seamans of Harrisburg who represented CannTech during the appeal asked for the process to be speedy.

Christopher Papa, the board’s solicitor, said he would attempt to have a draft of the findings of fact document prepared for Friday for the board members to sign rather than take the allowed 45 days to prepare the document.

CannTech has a grow facility in Warrendale that also must open in conjunction with the New Castle location.

Mukherji is also the majority whip of the New Jersey General Assembly.

Another medical marijuana dispensary called Harvest was set to open at the Sampson Street location last year, but, after a settlement with the Department of Health, the company relinquished two of its dispensary licenses — New Castle and Shamokin.

According to a health department news release published last August, the department granted dispensary permits on December 18, 2018, to six distinct Harvest entities. However, the fact that each used some form of the Harvest name, coupled with public statements made by their parent company, Harvest Health and Recreation, Inc., gave the public appearance that all permittees were a single entity, holding more than the five permits allowed by statute.

mbasileo@ncnewsonline.com

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