The medical marijuana program in Pennsylvania is still very new, so not everyone is comfortable with its progression, especially as it makes its way into our communities as has been the case for the greater Shamokin area.

We, however, see nothing but positives in the latest development: Tuesday’s announcement by the state Department of Health that the two medical marijuana dispensaries approved for the 12-county Northcentral region in Phase 2 will both be in Shamokin.

The advantages, of course, start with logistics: Those in need of medical marijuana for one of the state’s 21 approved medical conditions will have access nearby. Also, for some of those patients, medical marijuana will be an alternative to prescribed opioids, which, as we all know, have been fueling the state’s opioid and heroin addiction crisis. (Opioid use disorder, in fact, is among the 21 approved conditions.)

There are also economic benefits, not only with the citing of two new businesses in town, the people they’ll employ and the taxes they’ll pay, but also, in Shamokin’s case, because both Harvest of North Central PA LLC and PharmaCann Penn LLC will occupy currently vacant structures.

Win, win, win. ...

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While “marijuana’s” stigma as a party drug — and, indeed, its remaining illegal status on the federal level — are of concern, it’s important to realize that a dispensary for medical marijuana is not unlike any other pharmacy in that it will involve the approved and controlled sale of legal drugs. Yes, a pharmacy is sometimes the target of crime because of the products it sells, but there is no reason to suspect these new facilities will create any type of safety concern in those neighborhoods.

There is, of course, the irony that the site identified by PharmaCann Penn for its dispensary is the office of physician Dr. Raymond Kraynak. One year ago today, the State Board of Osteopathic Medicine (SBOM) ordered the immediate suspension of his medical license, saying he represents “an immediate and clear danger to the public health and safety” following an indictment that he over-prescribed opioids over the previous five years, including accusations that his actions resulted in the death of five people.

PharmaCann described the situation as “purely coincidental.” There is more to come on this, however, considering the indictment sought forfeiture of Kraynak’s Shamokin and Mount Carmel offices (and $500,000). Any further action, of course, is dependent on the outcome of Kraynak’s trial, tentatively scheduled for February.

The curious dispensary location wasn’t the first oddity involving Kraynak and the medical marijuana industry. Recall that, eight days before his indictment last Dec. 20, he was approved by the Department of Health as a medical marijuana-approved practitioner in Northumberland County. His name was removed from that list one day later.

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Having two medical marijuana dispensaries in Shamokin will also help further the development of the local medical marijuana industry, melding nicely with the Parea Biosciences “grow” facility OK’d for operation at the former Northwestern Academy site in Coal Township.

Indeed, it’s yet another win for the city and region.

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