An Ayr Wellness medical marijuana dispensary is targeted to open June 1 at the former Rent-A-Center store at 2244 Oakland Ave., White Township.
This will be the first medical marijuana dispensary to open in the Indiana area, with the closest other dispensaries being in Johnstown.
“This is the first dispensary in White Township,” said White Township Manager Chris Anderson. “No other dispensary has tried to move in before. We never received a permit application or development package from one.”
Howard Lavin, a partner of Oakland Developers, said he worked with his partner through Oakland, as well as Altoona real estate agent Bob Varner and Greensburg realtor Vicki Pilato to purchase the property to rent to Ayr Wellness. Lavin said establishing a dispensary in Indiana is important because of the area’s lack of access to medical cannabis.
“Indiana is an underserved area,” Lavin said. “There are no medical dispensaries anywhere near there.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Health could not be reached for current data, but according to DOH data provided in an Aug. 23, 2021, New Castle News article, there were zero dispensaries in Indiana despite the county’s more than 2,500 medical marijuana patients and 83,000 residents.
The DOH divides Pennsylvania into six regions to oversee its medical marijuana program. The Southwest region, Region 5, comprises 11 counties, including Indiana. With more than 126,000 medical marijuana patients in Region 5, Indiana is one of only four counties, including Armstrong, Greene and Somerset, that doesn’t have a dispensary, according to the New Castle News report.
White Township supervisors received a $450,000 building permit application in March, processed through the township’s building code department, to customize the former Rent-A-Center for cannabis retail, according to Anderson.
Lavin said the building is undergoing a complete makeover.
“We’re redoing the whole thing,” Lavin said. “All new inside, ceiling, floors, counters. There’s a vault that they built in there. … It’s going to look like a new building.”
Because Ayr Wellness will use an existing building for its operations, the medical marijuana company did not need to submit any new land development permits to White Township supervisors.
The dispensary will serve card-holding medical marijuana patients registered with Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program. Despite Indiana’s college population, Lavin said year-round community members would be the primary beneficiaries of the dispensary.
“I find that there are more people (age) 40 and up going to the dispensaries,” Lavin said. “I guess college students (will go), too, but really, it’s not based on college — it’s based on the community. There’s a need in the community.”
Lavin said the former Rent-A-Center was an ideal location because of its accessibility to town. He said he hopes to bring another restaurant to the area, too, at the former Payless ShoeSource building attached to the former Rent-A-Center, which Oakland Developers also purchased.
“What I’d really like is to put a couple food trucks in the parking lot so we can alternate different types of food,” Lavin said. “But if we put a restaurant in, we wouldn’t get the food trucks. We’re looking for somebody to take that (location) for a restaurant to go in.”