Stanley English was the first in line when Reading’s newest medical marijuana dispensary opened its doors at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
For English, 40, of Sinking Spring, and others who suffer from chronic pain, the passage of legislation that allows cannabis to be grown and harvested at licensed facilities and sold at dispensaries such as Beyond/Hello, 300 Cherry St., has been a lifesaver.
English uses a walker because of a broken back suffered on the job while delivering drywall in 2014. His truck overturned into the back of a tractor-trailer.
“Nine surgeries later and over 100 hours on the operating table and here I stand,” he said. “I’m just glad to see they finally passed something in Pennsylvania. I’m glad to see some of the stores open. It’s nice to see one here in town, where people can walk.”
Beyond/Hello is the second medical cannabis dispensary to open in the city, but the first in the downtown area. It’s housed in a blue, one-story building across the street from the rear parking lot of Jimmie Kramer’s Peanut Bar.
The other dispensary is Harvest House of Cannabis, 201 Lancaster Ave.
Another customer waiting for the doors to open, Lu Willet, 64, of Shillington said she was happy to learn Beyond/Hello was opening a store so close to her home.
She said she suffered from stage 2 renal failure, which she blamed on medication she took for underlying medical conditions. She said she’s improved since she replaced medication that was harmful to her kidneys with medical cannabis.
Willet said she’s had good experiences as a customer of other Beyond/Hello stores in the region.
The Reading location is the eighth cannabis facility licensed by the state Department of Health to Jushi Holdings Inc. for in-store and on-line shopping. In-store and curbside pickup is available.
Dispensaries hire about 15 people per location, officials said.
In September, Jushi, a multistate cannabis and hemp operator, announced it was acquiring 80 percent of the economic and voting interests in Agape Total Health Care Inc., which held permits to operate dispensaries in Reading and Pottsville.
Construction of the Cherry Street dispensary had been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The site had also faced some resistance from the City Council.
“As the only dispensary located downtown in the heart of the Reading Downtown Improvement District, Beyond/Hello Reading will enable us to better serve medical marijuana patients in Pennsylvania’s fifth largest city and the surrounding region,” Jushi President and CEO Jim Cacioppo said in a news release. “Our plan is to continue broadening access for patients across the commonwealth, and we look forward to opening up new storefronts across the state in the future to further meet patient needs as well as drive value for our shareowners.”
The new location initially will be open Monday from noon to 5 p.m., and Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Off-street parking is available in an adjacent lot.
Beyond/Hello carries flowers, concentrates, cartridges, tinctures, topicals, capsules, pills and various ancillary products, such as batteries, vapes, and vape cleaning gear and merchandise.
Blythe Huestis, vice president of retail for Jushi, greeted the store’s first customers. She and some of the staff handed out water bottles with the Beyond/Hello logo and face-coverings, also with the logo, for those who needed them.
The company usually hosts an open house prior to opening a store to introduce itself to other businesses and community leaders, Huestis said.
But that wasn’t practical during the COVID-19 crisis.
Huestis said the store has a licensed pharmacist on the premises at all times and is committed to providing a good shopping experience.
The Peanut Bar leased some of the parking spaces on the lot it owns across Cherry Street from its main lot to the dispensary, Huestis said.
“We’re looking forward to continuing to establish relationships with other businesses in the community,” she said.