(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — At this point, Black Bear Dispensary is no secret — the hemp dispensary opened its first location in 2021 in Grove City. A second location later was opened in Clarion. And on Dec. 2, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the company’s third and newest location in Meadville.

“It’s been really great. Honestly, we’ve received a lot of support from the community,” said Jesse Worsk. Jesse and his wife, Carrie Worsk, are co-owners of Black Bear Dispensary. “We’re members of the Western Meadville Chamber of Commerce. They’ve been a wonderful organization that has supported us with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and being able to network with other businesses through them has been very beneficial.”

Hemp is the same species of plant as marijuana, cannabis sativa. A defining characteristic is that hemp has less than 0.3% delta 9 THC which causes psychoactive effects. Hemp farmers specifically cultivate plants that will produce low levels of delta 9 THC to ensure their crop is classified as hemp, Carrie Worsk explained. Hemp is considered a crop and is permitted through the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

“It’s like how the same flowers can be grown to have specific colors,” Carrie said.

“Or how dogs are the same species, but one dog is bred to be a hunting dog, and another is bred to be man’s best friend,” Jesse said.

Jesse and Carrie Worsk

While hemp has little to no psychoactive effects, it still is touted for the same wellness benefits as marijuana. The Worsks said their customers are seeking anti-inflammation benefits, pain relief, help with mood (such as depression and anxiety), and relief from rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and sleep issues.

“Many people prefer our products because the psychoactivity is less intense — they want relief without intense psychoactivity,” Carrie said.

Black Bear Dispensary sells a variety of products from edibles, vape cartridges, flower and even pet products. The products are third-party lab tested, meaning they’ve all earned a certification that ensures the product’s potency and purity, and ensures that they don’t contain residual solvents, mold or mildew.

Most of their customers are between the ages of 50 and 60. “They’re just trying to get a good night sleep without pharmaceuticals,” Jesse said.

So why Meadville? Jesse Worsk grew up in Sandy Lake and Franklin, not-too-distant neighbors of Meadville. He’s a veteran of the U.S. Army who served a tour in Afghanistan from 2012 to 2013. His foray into cannabis was working in medical marijuana dispensaries in Pennsylvania. That company then opened stores in Ohio and beyond, all the way to Arizona. Along the way, he met Carrie, who had been working in medical marijuana sales (they’re now married). With that experience, they knew they wanted to begin their own cannabis operation, and the idea of opening a hemp store in Jesse’s hometown grew from there.

“We wanted to create service hubs around where I grew up, and that has been a mission since we started,” Jesse said. “Our current customers were coming in from the northern end of our territory, so we decided to open a location in Meadville to make it more accessible and to invest in our community.”

The Meadville dispensary held a soft opening on Nov. 4, and its grand opening was on Dec. 2. Black Bear Dispensary is located at 18471 Smock Hwy Suite 101 in Meadville.