Legislators attend cannabis store opening, push for legalized marijuana

Kelly Evans / Cresco Labs

Senators, councilmembers, cannabis advocates and neighbors gathered Monday morning to celebrate the grand opening of Sunnyside Cannabis Store in Center City. Located at the one-time Cathay Tea Garden Building at 1221 Chestnut Street, the national cannabis retailer known for its emphasis on wellness and consumer education officially opened its fourth store in Pennsylvania.

Senators Sharif Street and Dan Laughlin, Rep. Brian Sims, and Councilmembers Mark Squilla and Isaiah Thomas — all of whom are pushing for the Adult Use Cannabis Legalization Bill—were on hand to celebrate the grand opening of Philly’s latest dispensary.

The Laughlin-Street Bipartisan Adult Use Marijuana Legalization Bill, a legislation meant to legalize marijuana use and possession for adults 21 years and older, is geared toward prioritizing safety, social and economic equity and engaging Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry, as well as offering those who don’t have access to medical marijuana cannabis-related care. The senators and city council members are also hoping to create a wealth of jobs while generating new tax revenue for the Commonwealth.

Cresco Labs celebrated the opening of Sunnyside dispensary with a ribbon cutting on June 21. Pictured are (from left) Nicole Moll, William Butler, Cris Rivera, Charlie Bachtell, Senator Sharif Street, Senator Dan Laughlin, Councilmember Mark Squilla, and Sabrina Noah and Jason Erkes.Kelly Evans / Cresco Labs

Cresco Labs CEO & Co-founder Charlie Bachtell and its Chief Communication Officer, Jason Erkes, were on hand at the Chestnut Street shop Monday morning and explained their stores’ sights are based on a solid philosophy.

“We really focus on educating the patients, to make sure we understand what their objectives are, to recommend the proper form of consumption and dosage, and to monitor them as we work,” said Erkes.

Prime locations, varied products and knowledgeable staff who can work with patients one-to-one are also essential to Sunnyside’s mission, according to Erkes. “When people come into our stores, the first thing that they see is how we are looking to normalize the cannabis buying experience,” he said. “When people walk into Sunnyside, it doesn’t have a ‘cannabis’ feel – it feels like any wellness retailer, be it Whole Foods or a GNC or any store that is part of their wellness routine.”

Cresco Labs, the parent company of Sunnyside, produces cannabis products and distributes them, not only to Sunnyside, but other dispensaries in the state of Pennsylvania. “Sunnyside, as a retail brand, gives us the ability to have a personal touch point with patients and consumers, and understand what their needs are – which, in turn, help us to develop more appropriate and thoughtful products,” said Erkes.

Reaching into Pennsylvania as an anchor has been a goal of Cresco Labs and Sunnyside ever since Governor Tom Wolf signed the state’s medical marijuana program into law in 2016, with dispensaries opening in 2018. “This new dispensary is a continuation of us going deep into the Pennsylvania market – our fourth one, with two more down the road—and we’re anxious to introduce downtown Philly to the Sunnyside brand,” said Erkes.

Kelly Evans / Cresco Labs

“The governor and the legislature has been very committed to this; that shows most with the Adult Use Cannabis Legalization Bill that’s been introduced,” Erkes continued. “The bill, as introduced, is a very thoughtful piece of legislation, and encompasses points that are crucial to the industry. Most importantly, however, it will provide access to patients across the state who don’t have a medical card. They still have pain. They still have trouble sleeping, or suffer from anxiety. Opening up the doors to Sunnyside with access for them is a big part of the process.”

Squilla, of Philadelphia’s First District which includes parts of South Philly, Center City, Chinatown and the Riverwards, attended the Sunnyside medical dispensary opening and was impressed by their desire to be “community partners with the City, as well as be a part of the neighborhood. As studies are being done that show the benefits of medical marijuana to treatment ailments and anxieties, the facilities and how they deliver are important.”

Beyond marijuana for medical use, Squilla is a proponent of the non-partisan Adult Use Cannabis Legalization Bill, which does take into account recreational use.

“In this day and age, marijuana is widely used by many individuals, whether for self-medication or indulgence,” he said. “I believe marijuana is used just as much as alcohol is, in a way, though, that does not create any revenue for the state or our local municipalities. If it is so widely used, with no enforcement, why wouldn’t we be able to make it legal, regulate it, make sure the products are pure, and that the state and local municipalities could benefit from it through taxation.”

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