After a very slow start, medical marijuana dispensaries are sprouting across the region like, ehem, weeds.
The competition is taking root and the marketplace is expanding as about 35,000 patients have signed up. Two more retail cannabis stores opened this week in the Pennsylvania suburbs on the heels of Montgomery County's first dispensary, which opened April 23 in Abington.
Ilera Healthcare, which also grows and processes cannabis in Fulton County, opened its first shop on Thursday inside a renovated bank in Plymouth Meeting at 420 Plymouth Rd.
In 1970s stoner circles, "420" was a code word for smoking marijuana and getting high.
"I swear, we did not chose it for the 420 address," said Greg Rochlin, CEO and co-founder of Ilera. "It was serendipity. We literally didn't realize it. None of us were part of the old culture."
The building, which stands across from the Plaza Azteca restaurant, has undergone a major overhaul. Rochlin described the Ilera dispensary as looking "like the Apple Store meets a library. It's very comfortable and approachable with soft seating."
Keystone Shops, which launched one of the state's first medical marijuana outlets in Devon, opened its new dispensary Thursday in King of Prussia at 367 S. Henderson Rd.
Philadelphia will roll out its first dispensary in mid-May. Industry insiders received a sneak peak Wednesday night of the Restore Integrative Wellness Center on Frankford Avenue, a tranquil facility tucked inside what was once a 6,000-square-foot welding shop.
Restore's clean and muted ambiance is a stark contrast to the raucous nightclub scene of its thriving Fishtown neighborhood. And that's by design, said Restore's CEO, Steve O.
"This is a place where people can come to de-stress and restore a sense of serenity," O said. "It's a real privilege and honor to be on the ground floor of this industry, and my wife and I feel we have a huge responsibility for increasing patient access and dispelling the reefer madness thing."
The northern suburbs are also getting another dispensary. In Bristol Township, a Beyond/ Hello medical cannabis dispensary will open May 11 in a strip mall at 2412 Durham Rd.
Beyond/Hello, which has paired with the Rothman Institute to conduct research on cannabis and pain, will host a pair of informational seminars for patients and health-care providers at the Bucks County Community College. Patients can attend a session at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 12. A symposium for health-care providers is set for 8:30 a.m. Saturday, May 19.
Beyond/Hello is aiming to open the first marijuana retailer in Center City by September on the 1200 block of Sansom Street.
TerraVida Holistic Centers, which opened its second shop in Abington on April 23, will open a third medical cannabis dispensary at a former auto-parts emporium in Malvern on May 20.
South Philadelphia will see its first dispensary up and running by mid-June. Herbology Dispensary will open on the 1100 block of East Passyunk Avenue.
Mahja Sulemanjee, marketing director for the Illinois-based Herbology chain, said the store will have an atmosphere that crosses "living room chic" with a Nordstrom's jewelry counter. The shop also will offer yoga, cooking and meditation classes free to qualified patients.