JOHNSTOWN, Pa. —
Twelve companies have applied for medical marijuana dispensary permits in Johnstown and three have applied for growery permits in the city, according to records released by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Local leaders, including presidents of both Johnstown Area Regional Industries, or JARI, and the Johnstown / Cambria County Chamber of Commerce, expressed optimism Monday that groweries or dispensaries in town could be good for the local economy.
“The medical marijuana dispensaries and growers are legal businesses in Pennsylvania, and we deal with those like we deal with any other type of business,” said Linda Thomson, president of JARI.
Amy Bradley, the chamber’s president, said she has heard some concerns from local community members who worry that dispensaries could mean more drugs in an area already beleaguered by a crippling opioid epidemic.
Bradley, though, said she believes the state has put in place strict enough regulations to belay those fears, including the fact that the drug is not available in smoking form, even to those who qualify medically.
There are some concerns, though, Bradley said, including possible confusion for other businesses. For example, if a businesses has a zero-tolerance drug-free workplace policy, is it allowed to reprimand people who are using marijuana (which remains federally illegal in all forms)?
The answer, expectedly, is more complicated than it may seem. While Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law does not allow employers to fire employees because they hold a medical marijuana card, it does let them fire employees if they’re under the influence at work.
However, lawsuits challenging similar laws in other states are currently working their way through the court system, and decisions in those suits could have a major effect on how laws are applied here.
Regardless, Bradley said the chamber is planning to hold community forums on the issue