Gov. Tom Wolf’s office will announce the first dozen grow licenses tomorrow, after months of jockeying by consultants, businesses and political figures eager to score one of the few coveted licenses. (Dispensary licenses will be awarded at a later, unspecified date.) Over the past three months, another five would-be medical marijuana growers or retailers have secured zoning permits from Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses & Inspections ahead of a final state licensing decision.
The selection process has unfolded largely behind closed doors. State officials have been relatively mum throughout and even the identities of many applicants are shrouded in mystery – but that hasn’t stopped some of them from preemptively locking in zoning permits either directly or through real estate partners.
The Inquirer tracked seven zoning permits, which are not required to complete the state’s application process, back in March. Since then, five more applications for marijuana zoning licenses have been filed with L&I, all of which were approved.
One permit, at 4527 North Broad Street, would overhaul a small retail structure for use as a dispensary. The application was filed by the Nicoletti Family Trust, which owns the building in question. Members of the Nicoletti family also control the Philadelphia Suburban Development Corporation.
Another permit, filed by 126 Chestnut Street LP, would see a dispensary in a vacant storefront at 126 Chestnut Street, in Old City. Incorporation documents for that company list two Huntingdon Valley office addresses shared with Sant Properties. Sant, in turn, is tied to investor Hardeep Chawla, one of Philly’s top tax-delinquent landlords, who was also indicted over a corruption scheme involving an aide to Councilman Jack Kelly in 2009.
A third application seeks approval for a combination grow facility and dispensary at a 107,000-square foot industrial building on the 3700 block of Castor Avenue. The factory is owned by Kensington Castor Partners, another LLC that lists a mailing address at a loft building occupied in part by Shift Capital, a firm that has invested heavily in repurposing buildings across Kensington and North Philadelphia.
A fourth application was filed by 444 Commercial LLC, a holding company used by Orens Brothers development for their loft building at 444 North Fourth Street, which would host a dispensary on its ground floor. A final application, spanning a few garages near 957 Frankford Avenue, was filed by 957 Frankford LLC, which has unclear ownership.
Nearly 900 entities have applied statewide for just 39 licenses: 12 for growers and 27 for dispensaries.