DOES THE CURRENT TREND OF VAPE/SMOKE SHOPS & DISPENSARIES ON MAIN STREETS REFLECT THE DESIRES OF THOSE COMMUNITIES?
Legal Matters: By Scott Reidenbach, Esq.
Driving down Lancaster Avenue the other day, I nearly drove off the road when I turned my head suddenly, shocked that yet another vape shop had just opened here on the Main Line. Everywhere you turn these days, there is a smoke shop or dispensary popping up amongst the art galleries, bowling alleys, coffee shops, movie theaters and banks. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t like what I’m seeing.
(I will certainly note here that Medical Marijuana Dispensaries have a significant, positively-intended purpose and are also, at the same time for comparison sake, much more ‘incognito’, lacking the neon signs tattooed on every inch of the brick and mortar body, as the vape/smoke shops that litter the area, intending to lure even the unsuspecting customer inside do, and seem to do so without hesitation or critical discrimination. The MMDs have a much more sophisticated focus and internal disbursement system, and appropriately so, to properly honor and serve those with qualification, need and pertinent paperwork. Our young kids see, read and are negatively effected by the signs as we pass by the vape and smoke shops, which ‘criminally’ beg their attention…their excessively bright, yet truly dark and potentially lethal, youth-enticing advertising is exactly the message we are hoping to protect them all from; I’ll draw a parallel here to our youth consequentially and unintentionally inhaling ‘toxic fumes of second hand smoke’, simply by default of being innocent, naive passers by in their own neighborhoods, driving or walking by on their way to soccer practice; this is simply not ok. At the very least, these vape and smoke shops need to clean up their external appearance immediately. We do not want this type of product and venue present at all, nor advertised so blatantly to our youth and on our Main Streets. It’s wrong, unattractive and out of alignment with the nurturing, safe environment for which we all strive, and we as parents and as a community need to help facilitate the course correction asap).
When medical marijuana became legal in Pennsylvania in 2016, I was not shocked, but I was not happy. As an attorney, I’d been tracking the legalization of cannabis across the country for several years and as a frequent traveler, I’d been noticing with increased frequency how prevalent marijuana use had become (legal or other) in states such as California and Colorado, and later Massachusetts.
Having grown up and having spent my entire adult life here in Pennsylvania, I held out hope that our Dear Commonwealth would resist and “just say no” to this phenomenon. However, after I studied the revenue models and economic “benefits” to the states that had legalized medical marijuana, I knew that it was only a matter of time before Pennsylvania saw dollar signs and joined the ranks of those other….well, rank states.
Things are always less offensive and intrusive when they are far away, out of sight or not in your face. Take a Dallas Cowboys fan for example. They are always annoying, but when they attend an Eagles/Cowboys game wearing a Troy Aikman jersey and scream “We dem boyz!” in your face after each first down while spilling a Budweiser on your sneakers, that’s a little more offensive.
Vape shops and medical marijuana dispensaries have begun to proliferate here in Philadelphia and the Main Line. “Who is letting this happen?!” is a common proclamation from residents along with “How are our political leaders allowing this to occur, especially near our schools, churches and bagel shops.”
Now I don’t want to disregard or offend anyone who uses medical marijuana. I agree that there are scientifically proven benefits to its use, including pain relief and anxiety reduction to name a couple. That said, I agree with most residents in this area that we don’t want these establishments dotting the landscape near our homes, businesses or schools. Imagine how nice it would be if they could all be in one centralized location several miles away from populated areas. Think of a Bates Motel, concert venue or traveling circus for smoke shops and dispensaries, a place that is out of the way, not in our face and perhaps even temporary.
A destination if you will, not a place that is integrated into our neighborhoods and communities.
If you are opposed to vape shops or medical marijuana dispensaries in your community, start attending township meetings, write to your local elected officials, put a sign on your lawn or run for public office. The reality is that many local zoning ordinances are allowing these establishments to open. Unless voters and residents make more noise and oppose them, I’m afraid there’s yet another one coming soon to a Main Street near you.