Hilltop medical marijuana dispensary receives community support despite school moving to area

Hilltop medical marijuana dispensary receives community support despite school moving to area

While marijuana collectives have historically faced neighborhood opposition in Richmond, the Green Remedy Collective has both members of the community and City Council advocating for its continued existence at 2928 Hilltop Mall Road.

The collective is facing eviction from its current location because a new middle and high school campus is expected to be built 730 feet away. While state law requires a distance of 600 feet from schools, Richmond municipal code’s minimum distance is 1,500.

Typically, collectives that were operating prior to the opening of a school campus nearby are grandfathered in, according to city officials. But in this case, the Green Remedy Collective has not had a permit to operate at its current location for the nearly two years it has been there. The collective has a permit to operate in a separate commercial zone, called C-2, as it had initially requested to open in a space at 4800 Bissell Ave. The collective has never moved from its Hilltop location, however, and despite the fact that it passes regular city inspections, its permit was never switched back to the C-3 zone.

Now that a school is moving into the area, council members and city staff, all of whom appeared Tuesday to support the dispensary’s continued tenancy in Hilltop, are facing a dilemma. The ordinance doesn’t allow for special treatment in how close a dispensary can locate to a school, thus Green Remedy Collective is currently barred from receiving a C-3 permit. To remedy that, city staff suggested changing the ordinance to reduce the city’s legal distance of 1,500 feet to the state’s legal distance of 600 feet, which would allow Green Remedy Collective to remain. But Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin opposed that idea, saying the 1,500-foot distance had in past years been decided upon after many community meetings.

Instead, council asked staff to find a way to keep the distance between dispensaries and schools at 1,500 feet while adding an exception for Green Remedy Collective. Another proposed idea would rescind the C-2 zone permit and reinstate the C-3 zone permit, which would require opening an appeals process.

By the end of Tuesday’s council hearing, it was unclear which option was most viable. But what was clear was that all councilmembers, including McLaughlin, support keeping Green Remedy Collective at its current location. No community member spoke in opposition to the collective Tuesday.

Councilmembers say the business, which employees 24 people, including two security guards, has been dutifully paying its city permit fees and taxes and has been a good neighbor.

Community members who spoke at Tuesday’s council meeting lauded the collective for donating to community organizations and providing employment opportunities to folks re-entering society from incarceration.

“They cleaned up the area,” said Bishop Andre Jackson, owner of the nearby Jackson’s Medical Supplies Services.

Jackson further described the collective as “great tenants” who run a discreet operation that is tucked away and not always obvious for patients to find.