Winter Warmer Lentil Salad

A medley of earthy flavors will melt in your mouth


By Anna Herman

A good salad is always greater than the sum of its parts, whether assembled from the freshest garden greens or a thoughtful mixture of leftovers. Salad—from the Latin for salt—is the alchemy of disparate ingredients pulled together with a lively vinaigrette, or some other preferred dressing.  In winter, I’m more than willing to trade the crisp crunch of lettuce for the warmth of wilted greens.

Lentils cook quickly and absorb flavorful vinaigrettes or seasonings, making them a very useful legume. Red, green and brown lentils, which get so soft as to lose shape, are perfect for soups and stews. Black and French lentils (lentilles du Puy) cook quickly, but retain their shape when soft and are best for blending with a grain for a pilaf or featuring in a salad.

Sherry Dijon Vinaigrette:

• 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

• 1/3 cup sherry vinegar

• 1/2 cup fruity olive oil

• 1 clove garlic, very finely minced or
pressed through a garlic press

• 1 teaspoon salt

• Fresh ground black pepper

• 2 to 4 teaspoons minced scallions
and/or parsley (optional)

Add all ingredients to a jar. Close
with a tight-fitting lid and shake well
to emulsify.


Serves 4 to 6

• 2 medium beets, trimmed and
washed (or 2 store-bought roasted,
peeled beets)

• 3/4 cup uncooked lentils du Puy
(French green lentils)

• 1 bay leaf

• 1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed

• 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

• Salt and pepper as needed

• 3 tablespoons olive oil

• 4 tablespoons minced onion

• 2 to 3 cups sliced mushrooms— any variety or a mixture— the more interesting the better

• 3 heads of frisée, trimmed, washed well and spun dry. Frisée is in the chicory family along with endive and escarole. If frisée is unavailable, feel free to substitute.

• 3 tablespoons toasted walnut pieces

To Assemble:

1. Heat oven, or toaster oven, to 375 degrees. 

2. Wrap beets individually in aluminum foil and place in oven. Cook 25-45 minutes until soft to
the touch when pressed. Larger beets will, of course, take longer to cook.

3. Remove beets from oven and allow to cool, still wrapped.

4. Remove foil. Using a paring knife to assist, slip off the beet skin. Slice into bite-size pieces and toss with 2 tablespoons of the sherry Dijon vinaigrette. If using store-bought roasted beets, cut into pieces, toss with vinaigrette and let beets sit out to room temperature.

5. In a medium saucepan, add the lentils, bay leaf, garlic and thyme, and add enough water to cover by 1/2 inch. Bring to a boil, lower flame to a simmer and cook 10 to 12 minutes until a tested lentil or two are just soft and cooked through. 

6. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir, and let lentils sit on stove as you prepare remainder of salad.

7. In a sauté pan, heat oil until it shimmers over medium heat.  

8. Add the onion and mushrooms, season with salt and fresh pepper, and stir often until mushrooms and onion wilt and caramelize.

9. Add the frisée on top of the mushrooms, put a top on the pan, and let frisée wilt for 2 to 5 minutes, depending on how tender the frisée was to start with. If substituting Belgian endive, do not wilt. If substituting escarole, let cook for up to 6 minutes until well softened.

10. Drain lentils, remove smashed garlic and bay leaf, and toss with 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette.

To Serve:

Remove frisée from the pan and use it to line the bottom of a serving plate or platter. Add 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette to the mushrooms remaining in the pan and mix well. Spoon lentils in the center of the frisée-lined plate. Arrange mushrooms and beets on top. Sprinkle with walnuts. Drizzle any remaining vinaigrette on top to taste.

Turn this into a complete meal with a hunk of hard cheese or breaded baked goat cheese
and a crusty bread. A mug of beer or hard cider wouldn’t be amiss.

Recipe: Grandma’s Manicotti

Cheese-filled crepes and a warm salad will satisfy in the cold weather


By Brian Ricci

This month’s recipe for manicotti is based off of my grandmother’s. She used to make this most often for Sunday afternoon family dinner. With a great spread of food before us, we would gather around her big table and eat for what seemed like hours. The prep could be done the day before, leaving her time to spend outside of the kitchen with her children and grandchildren.

Makes about 15 crepes

• 6 eggs

• 3¼ ounces all-purpose flour

• 1/2 cup water

• 1 tablespoon salt

• Pinch of parsley, chopped roughly

Process all the ingredients together in a food processor or whisk together until just combined. Allow to sit at room temperature for 1 hour. In a nonstick pan, add tablespoon of oil or butter and set the heat to medium. Ladle about 1 ounce of batter into the pan and swirl around to spread and coat the bottom of the pan. Allow the batter to cook evenly—this takes about 1 to 2 minutes. You are looking for the crepe batter to go from wet to dry—but no color. Then, take the crepe off using a spatula. I tend to do this project first and wrap them in bunches of 10 to keep them fresh.

Cheese Filling

• 2 pounds ricotta

• 5 eggs

• 4 ounces Parmesan, grated

• 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, shredded

• 1 teaspoon nutmeg, grated

• Salt and pepper to taste

The filling is very straightforward. Simply mix these ingredients in a bowl using a spatula. When complete, fill each crepe with about 1/2 cup of the mixture by placing it 1/3 up from the bottom. Then roll the bottom end and tuck it underneath to create a cylinder of deliciousness. To finish, bake in a Pyrex or baking dish lined with olive oil in a 350 F oven for 20 to 30 minutes to set the egg mixture. Modifications: You can add some simple tomato sauce to the manicotti just before baking. For the winter, try adding braised greens, mashed sweet potatoes, or even pickled peppers or onions for a more nourishing or robust flavor.

The Better Business Bureau

Five Philadelphia benefit corporations you should know


By Grid Staff

Benefit corporations, which incorporate in a way that requires owners to consider community and environmental impact as well as their bottom line, are still relatively rare. But of the approximately 50 benefit corporations in Pennsylvania, half are located in Philadelphia, and they all go through a rigorous third-party certification with the nonprofit that started the certification, B Lab, via it’s B Impact Assessment tool. So when you’re about to look for goods or services, check out the list of companies at to support enterprises that are committed to supporting you back. We wish we had room to list them all, but here are a few to get you started.


What They Do:
Provide design services and U.S.-made furnishings and lifestyle products with an eye on environmentally friendly materials, life-cycle analysis and end-of-life considerations for the products—even on a budget.

Why They Do It:
“As designers and entrepreneurs, we learnt early on that our moral grounding is an asset in business. Sustainability and social responsibility are a commonsense approach to business. Products are about people and experiences, so our focus is on our customers, how our products are made, used and those who make them.

“Back when we started MIO, making products in the U.S. seemed counterintuitive to most. To this day our material choices and our creative designs cause surprise. We strive to shift paradigms and bring sustainable products and stories to life.

“Our model is far from perfect! Staying true to our moral compass in business is a delicate art that even the most successful companies struggle with (just read or listen to Yvon Chouinard talk about Patagonia). These challenges make us a better company, but more importantly they make us better humans.”

Jaime Salm, creative director, MIO

Vault + Vine

What They Do:
This full-service florist is a design studio, retail space and community center wrapped into one. The staff specializes in using seasonal, locally grown flowers and ethically sourced materials and products.

Why They Do It:
“Being a B corp is important because it provides us with a way to measure accountability in our actions as a business. Without this type of accountability, there’s no real way for consumers to know what and how we’re making a difference with our business. I also choose to certify as a B corp because a lot of people still hear sustainability and think ‘100% organic’ and ‘100% local’—both of which are important, but still just part of the equation. When it comes to ‘people, planet and profit,’ what we do best as a business is support our people: giving back to our community with time and money, hiring locally, buying locally and providing as many benefits to our employees as possible. From there, we use the B Impact Assessment to determine next steps for continuing to grow and improve ourselves as a business. Is it hard? Yes. Is it worthwhile? Absolutely!”

Peicha Chang, owner, Vault + Vine

Organic Planet LLC

What They Do:
Organic Planet LLC offers personal chef services for people with unique dietary needs, with a focus on organic and healthful meals. It also offers value-chain coordination to benefit small farmers, as well as food safety education.

Why They Do It:
“The way I choose to do business really comes down to self-interest and common  sense. If I treat my colleagues, customers and suppliers with kindness and respect, I am more likely to receive the same in return. If I source from local food producers who are passionate and responsible in their methods, I get incredible food that inspires me to be a better cook, which helps my clients to be happy and healthy,  and keeps me in business. If I pay farmers fair prices and support them in their efforts to sell to the wholesale marketplace, they are more likely to stay in business. This means more agricultural land in sustainable production and a diverse and regenerative foodshed. I feel privileged to do this work and provide these services. I would be a fool to poison the living web that sustains me. Bottom line: It’s much more fun this way!”

Lindsay Gilmour, owner, Organic Planet LLC


What They Do:
Houwzer is a full-service, tech--enabled residential real estate brokerage. It is the industry’s first commission-free listing model for home -sellers, and it pays realtors a salary rather than
through commission. 

Why They Do It:
“Houwzer was created to reimagine the home-buying and -selling experience for members in our communities. Our vision is to be the best real estate company in the world—enriching the lives of our clients and agents, while supporting our communities. Saving sellers half the cost on the sale of their home and providing buyers with trusted, salaried realtors was vital work toward our vision. Yet we wanted to take our commitment to the community a step further by ensuring our company values were carried out. Thus, Houwzer became the country’s first B corp residential real estate brokerage. Like our business model, Houwzer has approached social entrepreneurship uniquely. We like to call it the Rule of 10: giving back 2.5 percent of profits to charitable partners, spending 2.5 percent of our time volunteering, and allowing for at least 5 percent employee ownership. As we work to change the broken residential real estate industry, the B Impact Assessment will continue to ensure we are using business as a force for good.”

Mike Maher, co-founder & CEO


What They Do:
This B corporation offers management solutions to companies that will create environmentally friendly workplaces. By instituting simple in-house changes to organizational behavior practices, EcoInnovate helps clients reduce waste, conserve energy and save money.

Why They Do It:
“Unfortunately, we cannot rely on political leadership and regulatory standards to drive the needed changes to protect our environment in our communities, states or country. A market-driven approach to change is important. We are proud to be a member of the growing B corp movement that supports and promotes environmental sustainability, social justice, transparency and accountability, while advancing its mission to help businesses implement positive changes in its processes.”

Allen Hall, director & partner

Joining the Family Business

In a search for meaning, a social entrepreneur gets back to her roots

Illustration by Faye Zhang

Illustration by Faye Zhang

Essay by Nancy S. Cleveland

I had an uncle we thought must be a CIA operative.

At his memorial service, I was talking with one of his colleagues (a guy whose body language screamed, “Don’t ask me what I do!”). I was prattling on about my uncle’s purposeful, passion-driven work and how I wanted to do something meaningful like that. 

With an intensely penetrating look, he responded, “So, what’s stopping you?” 

It was a question that spun me around. 

I thought about my long career as a lawyer and how I’d reinvented myself many times. I’d worked as a litigator, in real estate and in telecom, building out wireless communications infrastructure. Despite a lot of career reboots, for me, practicing law evoked a near constant yearning for more purposeful work. My primary way of doing good was writing checks to charities. Good, but not that personally inspiring or meaningful.

I thought about my mother and her lifelong passion: women’s empowerment. Her passion for helping women inspired her to scale new ways of getting women into the skilled workforce that she needed for her local medical practice. She changed lives. Maybe not a lot of lives, but over time, her efforts had a ripple effect through two generations. It was from her that I learned two important lessons: Social impact doesn’t have to be monumental to be meaningful and important, and a strong and passionate belief in the change you seek can make a difference. 

I grew up in a family where making a difference was just what people were supposed to do. I was hardwired to become a social entrepreneur. And yet, there I stood at my uncle’s funeral, and a man I’d never met before was asking me directly: What’s stopping you?

The answer? Me.

Anyone considering an entrepreneurial move faces the risk and fear of failing. But those aren’t the only things you have to hurdle. It requires some soul-searching with questions like, What would I sacrifice? What will I gain? Is the change important enough to me? You have to knock down a lot of barriers to succeed as a social entrepreneur. But just getting started, getting out of your comfort zone, is the first and biggest—and one that I realized I had control over. 

That conversation at my uncle’s funeral was 13 years ago. It took me two years to find a strong enough passion, another year to change career paths and 10 more to hone ideas, meet my co-founder, assemble a team and launch a totally new software-based approach to sustainability management for business. Every day, it’s the purposeful, passion-driven work I was yearning for. 

Bringing a social-impact product to market is never the result of a single human being’s efforts. It is evolutionary, dynamic, collaborative and complex. And those are also the qualities that make being a social entrepreneur hugely rewarding, never lonely and well worth it. 

My mom passed away a few months before my uncle, so she never got to witness my journey. But I know she would be proud of the work my team is doing to make the world a better place. It makes me happy to think that, in a way, I’ve finally joined the family business.


Nancy S. Cleveland is a principal at Sustrana, a software company that provides sustainability management solutions.

Navigating Reentry After Prison? There's an App For That

Hackathon brings together parolees, technologists and journalists to create tech prototypes for the greater good


By Belinda Sharr

Reentering society after spending time in jail or prison can be challenging. Finding a job with a criminal record isn’t easy, and without money to purchase clothing and secure housing, it proves doubly challenging, as many employers require an address on an application. And then there’s reconnecting with family and finding support, which adds to the challenge.

Code for Philly (a community of civic technologists) and the Reentry Project (a collaboration of 15 newsrooms dedicated to solving issues of prisoner reentry) decided to meet this issue head-on—they hosted a “hackathon” event in October as an opportunity for journalists, technologists and reentering individuals to work together to create technology that will improve the lives of those reintegrating into society after paying their debt through a prison term. According to the Economy League, 44,000 Philadelphians return each year.

Robert Hudson was a hackathon attendee who has experienced the challenges of reentering the workforce. His team’s project, an app and website that connects mentors and mentees, was already in the works by the time the hackathon took place, and he continues to work on it to this day. 

Hudson was affiliated with Code for Philly, which helped him start his project, Mentor Philly (visit or text 215.515.9696). The app can be used by people who are out of the system and looking for a mentor, and also for those who would like to mentor others. 

“Mentors and mentees can use it to communicate without having to utilize traditional reentry services,” Hudson said. “The idea was modeled behind my progress and how I utilize my own mentors.” 

According to Jean Friedman-Rudovsky, project editor for the Reentry Project, the idea for the event was conceived from a few different places—but namely it was created with the recognition that there is a desperate need for technological innovation in the reentry space. 

After painstakingly laying the groundwork for the event, the hackathon culminated in a Friday night kickoff with about 50 people, and a Saturday team-building day. At the end, four impressive prototypes were debuted: Hudson’s mentor app; an SMS texting system to help people find Wi-Fi locations near them; a bilingual English and Spanish language website with resources on housing and employment; and a family needs assessment app that helps families create a profile of a returning family member along with a list of needs. 

“I think the event turned out great—it far surpassed expectations, because we didn’t want to give people the impression that at the end you would come out with fully designed apps or websites,” Friedman-Rudovsky said. “Our goals were to bring together these different groups—journalists, those from the criminal justice system and technologists. I was pleasantly surprised to see the energy and enthusiasm that came out of it.” 

“The collaboration was fantastic. One of the goals of the hackathon was to build a community and spaces for collaboration; and seeing this problem [of reentry] being met,” said Dawn McDougall, executive director of Code for Philly. “There was a spirit and energy at the event. That like-mindedness is going a long way.”

Hudson thought that the hackathon created a positive environment, and that it shed light on the issues surrounding the reentry process, as well as the stigma. 

“I think [events like this] are a positive for folks coming home because it shows that traditional citizens are concerned about the issues in their community. For me, that’s the game changer—when you see people who are different interested in what you’re going through; they see people in their struggle and are interested in solutions,” he said. “The hackathon created a good opportunity for structure and support. It was about an issue in general: How do we support these guys and their road to redemption?”


Four possible tech interventions for easing reentry after prison

1. SMS Text System: Halfway houses don’t allow smartphones or Wi-Fi, so the team created an SMS texting system where the user can text their location and receive information on where they can find spots with internet access. The service also offers assistance on locating food and shelter. 

2. Bilingual Website with Assistance: The website features pages of resources for employment, housing and more. The team also created a text application allowing flip-phone users to text “1” for job assistance or “2” for housing help.

3. Family Profile Needs Assessment App: This prototype was created for families of people who will soon be released. They can go in and make a profile of their returning loved one and detail what they need help with in 18 categories. The needs assessment will allow the person and their family to have a clear understanding of challenges. 

4. Mentoring App and Website: This app and website will connect people who need mentors with those who can help. It allows those who are released crucial access to people who can answer questions and guide them in starting their life again.

Greenbacks and Blue Water

Channeling a passion for clean water into a robust bottom line at United By Blue


By Justin Klugh

Regardless of where it flows, water brings life. At every depth, from oceans to puddles, it invites all kinds of organism to thrive. When humans started stacking up villages and cities, we did so on riverbanks, coasts and shorelines where food and water were abundant and the currents allowed for pre-industrial transit. But a few eons in, both shallow and deep bodies are choked with man-made waste, threatening the life it sustains.

Brian Linton, 31, CEO of United By Blue, wants to do something about that. 

Through lots of experimentation and experience throughout his career, Linton found that there is no easy way to streamline the conservation process, and he has learned which steps (and in what direction) to take through his business to achieve his goals. United By Blue, an environmentally conscious outdoor apparel brand and café, whose flagship store opened in Old City in November, is where he’s landed. For every purchase, the company facilitates the removal of 1 pound of trash from waterways.

Funding environmental protection and providing durable, sustainably produced clothing costs money. So while it’s understandable for some customers to look at an $80 price tag on a flannel shirt in United By Blue, blink twice and leave the store, Linton has a reason for the costs of his products. When you’re making clothes from sustainable materials such as organic cotton, recycled polyester or bison fiber, it’s easy to burn through somebody’s shopping budget. But Linton wants consumers to feel secure knowing their purchases are coming from a company that shares their sustainable beliefs, right down to the paint on the walls: United By Blue’s newest location in Philadelphia is LEED Platinum certified, the highest rating devised by the U.S. Green Building Council.

“I consider our pricing quite competitive, when all things are considered,” Linton explains. “You also have to think of the full value of a product when you’re making purchasing decisions nowadays, in terms of how it’s made, where it’s made and what it’s made of. For United By Blue, the thing we’ve always focused on is making things as responsibly as we possibly can, and the pricing reflects that. Full value, full price, full picture of a product is not the actual thing you put on your back; it’s everything that goes into it.” 

But Linton’s business isn’t outdoor apparel. It’s the outdoors. With four locations in New York and Pennsylvania, United By Blue stores don’t quite cover 71 percent of the planet: That figure belongs to our planet’s water sources, which is where the real work of United By Blue has begun. 

A lifelong appreciation for water and entrepreneurship

Linton was infatuated with water and the life it breeds as an adolescent, and that passion for water has saturated his entrepreneurial career. Every step he’s taken through his business endeavors has included a component to benefit the conservation of oceans and waterways. 

Linton went to sleep every night during his childhood in Singapore with the humming filters and electric blues of 30 fish tanks as his nightlight. After growing up in Southeast Asia, he made his way across the world, receiving educations formal and informal. He finished his BA in Asian studies at Temple University, where he won a business-plan competition in 2008, and spent the following summer driving from Maine to Florida selling stone necklaces to raise money for water conservation. 

Soon, the kid who had gone to sleep in a bedroom full of fish tanks figured out that his impact could be deeper if he narrowed the channel through which his entrepreneurial instincts rushed.  

“When I started eight years ago… I knew that I wanted to do something for oceans and waterways,” Linton says. “When I was putting down my concepts and ideas, it was everything from stopping shark finning to ocean acidification to coral bleaching… all these different issues associated with our oceans. I couldn’t address them all.” 

Soon, Linton’s business attracted people who shared his enthusiasm for clean water. In January 2016, Kelly Offner, a fellow Temple graduate, took over running United By Blue’s cleanup programs, including one on Oct. 3, during which 123 volunteers cleaned 4,200 pounds of trash off of Pier 68 on the Delaware River Waterfront. Offner has spearheaded United By Blue’s efforts to join an expanding community of environmentally conscious businesses.

“There are a growing number of companies voicing their concerns for the environment and urging their customers and communities to champion for conservation of natural lands and waters,” she says. “Especially in the current political climate, the more companies using their business to drive home positive messages and encouragement for environmental conservation, the better.”

United By Blue now focuses on rallying its 10,000 volunteers who have lifted 1 million pounds of garbage from our waterways. Linton has determined that the company’s best course of action has been to provide opportunities and direction for the masses of people willing to put their environmental values into action. 

“The most tangible thing that we could do as a brand was have a mission that people could get involved in on a tangible, concrete level,” he says. “There are a lot of people out there who want to do something on a Saturday or after work some days. These people don’t necessarily have the follow-through to do it on their own.”

“Our cleanups provide the opportunity for people to participate in what we ‘preach,’” Offner agrees. “People want to support businesses who are taking a stance on the things that matter most to them. The health of our rivers, lakes and oceans affects so many people, and providing a way for people to experience that firsthand is very important.”

That support continued with a second annual celebration of “Blue Friday” this year, an event Linton calls “the anti-Black Friday,” on which United By Blue encourages people to go out the day after Thanksgiving and pick up trash. 

“It might be a river, it might be an ocean, it might be a lake, it might be a park. The idea is to be thankful for the earth—instead of just rushing out to go shopping, take some time do something good for the blue planet that we live on.”

Poised for more growth and more good

Considering the severity of more and more instances of pollution, pushing back requires levels of stamina and tenacity that are more easily reached as a group. Linton, having grown the United By Blue brand to 80 employees in eight years, now sees opportunities for growth everywhere.

“We do encourage the DIY movement as well as joining us to do cleanups,” he says. “Blue Friday is ‘do it yourself’; we sent out bags, we sent out bandanas and gloves and things like that, but on a regular basis, we’re organizing and hosting cleanups across the country. The only way that it’s possible is if you have the diligence and discipline to continue the course that you aspired to at the beginning, and make sure you’re doing everything consistently and authentically. 

“If you don’t stay true to who you are on a personal and a brand level, you can’t build a successful brand,” Linton continues. “I’m proud to say we have been consistent, responsible and good, and we haven’t wavered from our desire to have an impact on oceans and waterways. And as a result, we’ve built a successful business.” 

The hope is that “successful business” can be redefined to mean more than just a line around the corner or a ledger full of black ink. It can mean local businesses using their platform to activate activists. For United By Blue, that means uniting around clean water, a universal need that the team believes is deserving of our collective effort to be sustained. 

“The beautiful thing about United By Blue is we create the format for people to do the good that they aspire to do,” Linton says. “United By Blue is something that’s very much grassroots, attainable, actionable, tangible: ocean conservation that can be done by the brand, as well as the people that support the brand.”

It’s a lesson learned from Linton’s ankle-deep globetrotting and the rousing of thousands of volunteers to the cause of purer waterways: Grassroots grow where clean water flows.

Cozying Up

5 Locally Made Textiles to Keep You Warm This Winter


By Emily Kovach

Coats from Meri Fete

Meri Fete is a small fashion label founded by Meri Lazar and her daughters. Together, they create one-of-a-kind, demi-couture pieces meant for women who want something with better fit or quality than clothing off the rack. Much of their capsule collection comprises timeless dresses and separates with sleek, clean lines, but they also make gorgeous, sophisticated winter coats that don’t sacrifice warmth for style. 

“As all our items, the coats are intended to be timeless statement pieces made from a collection of individually selected quality fabric,” says Lazar. “We start with the fabric as our canvas and then we create the basic design that evolves with the progress of execution: cutting from the initial pattern, basting and sewing, to the final hand finishing and addition of details.”

Though the label is just two years old, the concept behind its founding goes back 40 years, when Lazar coupled her engineering training with her grandmother’s basic sewing teachings and began cutting fabric. While studying in engineering school, she was asked to maintain a fashion column in the college newspaper, and she developed an appreciation for couture. Later, while traveling for work, she would explore vintage stores and high-end boutiques in various countries.

One of Lazar’s daughters, Ioana, inherited her mother’s love of fashion and now works as a stylist, and she has poured her skill and passion into the label. The label’s practices also reflect their commitment to certain principles: A percentage of the label proceeds benefit various causes, including the International Rescue Committee and Waves for Water.  

Self-described as “slow fashion,” Meri Fete also sees itself as helping to encourage mindful consumption. “Items are designed to be ageless and timeless,” Lazar says, “thus aiming to contribute toward a more sustainable and less wasteful lifestyle.”  

Email for a preliminary consultation

Towels & Throws from Cuttalossa

Can fabric be light, airy and also cozy? Everything that Old City-based Cuttalossa makes points to yes. Its line of versatile cotton textiles feel equally ready for a warm winter snuggle as a relaxed summer picnic. The pestemals (like a throw blanket/towel hybrid), peskirs (good for kitchen towels, hair wraps or towels for little ones), and plush and ultra-plush towels (thick enough to double as a small area rug or child’s play mat) are soft and easy, with colors and textures that exude a modern minimalist comfort.

And if supreme coziness is what you desire, Cuttalossa’s line of alpaca socks, hats, mittens and blankets are just the ticket. They certainly will run you more than your average winter accessories, but their construction and quality means you’ll have them a long time.

Cuttalossa was founded in 2013 by Shannon Retseck. Community and sustainability are at the core of her mission; the organic hand-loomed textiles are sourced from a weaver’s collective in southern Turkey, and the wool is from a group of alpaca farms in rural New Jersey. You can shop online or visit its small setup in the back of Meadowsweet Mercantile, a home and lifestyle boutique in Old City.

Quilts and Fabric from The Village Quilter 

Tucked into a charming cottage-esque building in Mill Race Village in Mount Holly, New Jersey, about 25 miles east of Philadelphia, is the Village Quilter, a quilter’s paradise. The cozy 1,000-square-foot shop offers bolts upon bolts of quilting cottons in all kinds of designs, patterns, books, classes and supplies. Twice a year, the weekends before Memorial Day weekend and Black Friday, the shops sells completed quilts. Village Quilter has been open for 15 years and doubles as a community gathering space where first-timers and seasoned quilters come together via classes, workshops, events and clubs. 

At the end of 2015, the original owner retired, and local Joyce Doenges, a frequent customer at the shop, decided to take it over.

“I had always wanted to own a quilt shop, and this seemed to be the perfect opportunity,” Doenges says. “I considered the Village Quilter my home shop... the perfect place to enhance my quilty stash, have a bite for lunch at the Robin’s Nest and do a bit of shopping. It was a bonus that I just loved the people that worked at the Village Quilter, and fortunately for me, they all decided to continue working for our incarnation of the shop.”

Doenges, who is also a second-grade teacher, reopened the Village Quilter in April 2016. In addition to relocating and expanding the classroom area and exposing existing barn doors along one wall of the shop, part of Doenges’ updating process has been harnessing the power of the local quilting community to do good. They support three charities: Project Linus, Ryan’s Cases for Smiles and Distributing Dignity. 

“We have a large network of quilters that visit us from all over the tri-state area... Many of our customers consider us their home away from home,” she says. “We take our hashtag, #ittakesavillage, seriously.”

Clothes and Knits from West Oak Design

In February 2014, soon after the birth of her son, Christie Sommers wanted to find a way to work from home. Her goal was to open an online shop of some kind, and in preparation she started the Handmade Today Project and made one thing by hand every day for a whole year, posting each creation to Instagram.

“The Handmade Today Project was just the structure of accountability, feedback and productivity I needed to kick-start my business,” Sommers says. “The project itself brought a nice bit of attention to my work and legitimized me by showing I was tenacious and dedicated.”

When she’d built up an inventory of items, she opened West Oak Design, an online shop offering small-batch and one-of-a-kind clothing, bags and housewares. Sommers designs and handcrafts each piece with a zero-waste approach. Her clothing is loose and comfy-looking in a very effortless, cool way, and the rope plant hangers, fabric plant cozies and coiled rope bowls bring a tactile warmth.

She recently signed the lease on a new studio in Mount Airy that she’ll use to host workshops, offer shopping by appointment and host occasional open studio hours in addition to fabric printing, pattern cutting, product photography and general business operations. She’ll continue to dye fabrics and construct garments 2.5 miles away in her home studio in Wyndmoor.

Pillows from Dance Happy Designs

Dance Happy Designs is an independently owned silk-screen print studio located in Swarthmore. It prints geometric motifs on fabric in cheerful colors, which is used to create pillowcases, table runners, tote bags and more. 

The company was founded in 2016 by friends Emily Scott, Julia Tyler and Liv Helgesen. The three met in 2012 when Scott, who owns a small shop in Swarthmore called Compendium Boutique, partnered with a Philly-based not-for-profit called Community Integrated Services, whose mission is to find meaningful employment for adults with disabilities. Tyler, who has Down syndrome, was placed as an intern at Compendium and was accompanied by her work coach, Helgesen. 

“Julia is very capable of doing a wide variety of tasks but she's fairly nonverbal... and she has her own pace,” says Scott. “The three of us just really clicked and bonded from the get-go, and five years later, Julia is still working at my boutique as an employee.” 

Tyler’s government funding changed when she turned 21 in March of 2016, and Scott and Helgesen brainstormed ways to help boost her employment. They tried screen-printing: Helgesen has a degree in it from Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and Tyler showed a knack for it. Now, together, they produce handcrafted, high-quality home decor and lifestyle products in small, limited runs. Tyler, the lead designer, applies her interest in pattern and color to the aesthetic of Dance Happy’s products and design patterns. She chooses colors and helps to transfer her patterns for the screen-printing process. Scott is the company business manager and Helgesen is the lead printer.

“From cutting out new patterns to printing fabric to assembling products, everything at Dance Happy is done by hand and with a whole lot of love,” says Scott.  

Though they don’t have their own brick and mortar shop, their Etsy shop is stocked, a few local boutiques carry their products, and they often can be found at trunk shows and makers markets across the region.

Our Collective Climate Delusion

If we’ve all lost our minds together, can we really know what’s happening?

Illustration by Jameela Wahlgren

Illustration by Jameela Wahlgren

Interview by Heather Shayne Blakeslee

Occasionally, a great reckoning will sweep through a culture, unveiling a world that will be shocking to some and unsurprising to others, but forcing change nonetheless. Take, for instance, the election of Donald Trump, which has thrown America’s long history of racism and our culture’s pervasive misogyny into the center ring of our current cultural, post-truth circus. But what will finally force a real conversation about the global threat of climate change? In his eloquent and unsparing book, “The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable,” Indian writer Amitav Ghosh explores the cultural, political and psychological history of our species’ inability to grasp that our daily habits are threatening our lives. He seamlessly weaves together stories and statistics to remind us that the world humans have constructed is by no means under our control: Earth has limits, and so do we. But at what point will we recognize—and reckon with—that fact? And how do the stories we tell ourselves about the past and the future contribute to that reckoning?

You are best known as a fiction writer. What made you decide to write the lectures that constitute “The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable”? And what role does fiction, or the humanities in general, play in helping us to process and understand our world?
AG: For me, climate change is impossible to ignore: It is the most important question of our times, and I wrote the book because I felt that it demands a response from every thinking person. Just as people once asked their parents, “What did you do during the war?” a future generation is going to ask their parents, “Why didn’t you pay attention to climate change?” 

As human beings, stories are fundamental to our understanding of the world. Perhaps if we listened to different stories we would better appreciate the scale of the challenge that we now face as a species.

You write in the book that our lives are not guided by reason but by “inertia and habitual motion” and that “those who uproot themselves and make the right preparations [for climate change] are precisely those obsessed monomaniacs who appear to be on the borderline of lunacy.” And you very specifically chose to use the word “derangement” in relation to the vast majority of people who cannot comprehend climate change. What does it mean to be sane at this point in our history as humans?
AG: I don’t think any of us can claim to be sane at this moment. We are all living in a kind of collective delusion, in which the political and economic discourse continues to conjure up horizons of unlimited “growth,” and we continue to use the very things that will ultimately destroy us—cars, planes, etc.

You observe that one effect of modernity is the shift in how we think about nature. In our literature and in our art, nature used to be an awesome force to be feared, respected and revered. And then—through our increased proficiencies in science, technology, engineering and math—we came to believe that we could control nature. How does it feel to you to be witnessing the results of our limitations? Of our hubris?
AG: It wasn’t just that modernity led people to believe that “nature” could be controlled—it led them to believe that the earth is inert. It is this illusion that has been shattered by climate change. James Lovelock’s seminal book “Gaia” showed us that in many respects the Earth functions as a living organism. But, of course,  this is what most premodern cultures believed anyway.

I’d like to talk about cultural memory. Great quantities of humans now live in places where our ancestors felt it unsafe to populate. You write in the book about the great incentives it took to get modern people to live on the island of Hong Kong, and about stone tablets left by earlier generations on the coast of Japan, warning of tsunamis and advising, “Don’t build past here!” Yet we chose instead to build not only a settlement but a nuclear facility there. One-third of America’s infrastructure is in our hurricane-prone Gulf Coast. Are we about to enter an age of remembering?
AG: The list of cities that are facing potentially catastrophic impacts is growing by the day. Hurricane Harvey may have been an important inflection point in the U.S.—at any rate, it seems to me that much more attention is being paid to this issue today.

One of the most enlightening parts of the book is the time you spend laying out how Eurocentric the dialogue around climate change is, and how the history of empire and of colonialism has also played a significant role in this story. Can you talk a little about that?
AG: It is a fact that the discourse on climate change is very Eurocentric. But this is, strangely enough, partly the fault of non-Westerners, because climate change is not a major subject of discussion in countries like India, China, Indonesia and so on—even though they all stand to lose a great deal. 

The impacts on India are widespread and intensifying. The most notable impacts are prolonged droughts, extreme heat waves, an increasing number of “rain bomb” events, and more and more agricultural land being invaded by seawater.

Most people cannot comprehend climate change or their contributions to it. We are also bad at imagining the sheer numbers of people who will be affected. You write that “the consequences are beyond imaginable: The lives and livelihoods of half a billion people in South and Southeast Asia are at risk.” What can help us conceive of this problem or how it will affect our fellow humans?
AG: The vastness of the scale of climate change is one of the factors that prevents us from grasping the enormity of the challenge, especially because we have become accustomed to thinking in delimited ways. Our approach to problems is to break them down into tractable units—but that often makes us lose sight of the interconnections of the big picture.

You cite many statistics in the book: Predicted sea-level rise may displace 50 million people in India; a temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius will decrease food production there by 25 percent; China feeds 20 percent of the world’s population on 7 percent of the world’s arable land, and desertification there is already causing $65 billion per year in losses. Scholars such as Robert Paarlberg have written that, because the United States may not see some of these same impacts and because our fossil-fuel lobby is so strong, U.S. action is stymied. Do you agree? And can the world solve this without the United States?
AG: I think the whole framing of climate change as primarily a threat to the world’s poor is very misleading. The truth is that everybody stands to lose in proportion to their circumstances. For many subsistence-level farmers, the impacts will surely be disastrous in that they will lead to complete immiseration. But in gross terms, the rich stand to lose the most, partly because they simply have more to lose and partly because they are more dependent on advanced infrastructure. During Hurricane Harvey, for instance, some of the richest people in one of the world’s richest cities were very badly impacted. Similarly, Puerto Rico is technically a part of the world’s richest and most advanced country, yet most of its people remain without electricity many weeks after Hurricane Maria. Cuba, by contrast, has been relatively resilient. In 2017 the U.S. probably had a higher tally of climate-related losses than any other part of the world.

Is there anything that gives you hope that we’ll solve this crisis?
AG: In my view, the idea that all problems have a “solution” is itself a hindrance in regard to thinking about climate change. At this point “coping” or “adapting” might be better words to use because many climate change impacts are already locked in—no matter what we do now.

Amitav Ghosh is a celebrated writer whose books include “The Circle of Reason,” “Dancing to Cambodia and at Large in Burma” and “Flood of Fire.”

The Trickle-Down Environment

Federal policies are harming Pennsylvania

Illustration by Clarissa Eck

Illustration by Clarissa Eck

By Jacqui Bonomo

President Trump’s napalming of environmental protection is withering the air, water, landscape and public health of our nation. As the president’s agenda begins to manifest in on-the-ground changes—at the state and federal levels, in our fragile ecosystems, in waterways and throughout our imperiled climate system—we move closer to crises that future leaders, laws and technology will be hard-pressed to reverse.

The most striking impact of the president’s effect in Pennsylvania is how it’s emboldened anti-environmental elected officials in the state Legislature. The past year saw an unprecedented series of attacks on previously hard-fought, and typically bipartisan, environmental protections that, at least until now, provided basic measures and tools to clean our air and water. The Trump effect has spawned copycat policymakers who embrace the same bombastic and divisive tactics and rhetoric as the president. If the electorate does not reject these destructive personalities or turn them out of office, the prospect becomes grim for providing a healthy environment and uncompromised climate systems to future generations. 

But despite the extreme anti-environmental provocations of the Trump team, we are seeing small victories for clean water and air. A large state coalition of clean water advocates recently beat back the Trump administration’s attempt to zero out the budget for watershed protection and restoration projects in local streams of the Susquehanna River, Pennsylvania’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The recently passed state budget closed Pennsylvania’s solar borders, and now clean energy credits needed to meet our renewable energy goals must come from solar projects and jobs produced here, and not from out of state, as previously allowed.  

We are witnessing a profound rejection of Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, and his demolition of the Clean Power Plan, a reasonable path forward to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Our communities are stepping up to take their climate and clean energy futures into their own hands. Backed by their constituents, mayors and elected officials around the commonwealth have declared their intention to reduce emissions and move forward with climate action in places like Bethlehem, Downingtown, Mount Pocono, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Swarthmore and State College, with the list growing every day.

There are opportunities for state and federal policymakers to shed the polarized fever that’s beset them and make progress for our environment. Congress could surprise us and produce a good Farm Bill reauthorization that helps Pennsylvania agriculture and water quality, or pass the RECLAIM Act to provide funding to accelerate restoration of land and water impacted by legacy pollution from coal mining. The state Legislature could get serious about reforming and reauthorizing the alternative energy portfolio standard and continue to build on 70,000 clean energy jobs around the state. 

Yet, the pull of the president’s fear-driven environmental policy is so strong, I would not count on it. My money is on the regular folks and emerging environmental leaders who know there is too much at stake, and who will not allow this president to get in our way.

Jacqui Bonomo is the president and CEO of PennFuture, a statewide environmental advocacy organization in Pennsylvania.

The End of Gerrymandering

Two Pennsylvania court cases could end partisan political districts—possibly even in time for the 2018 elections.

Illustration by Michael Wohlberg

Illustration by Michael Wohlberg

By Kyle Bagenstose

The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania tackles a long list of pressing issues: drilling in the Marcellus shale, child welfare, collective bargaining and campaign finance among them.

But more than any other, it is gerrymandering—the political process of drawing uneven election maps to heavily favor one party—that sets off alarm bells for league vice president and Chester County native Carol Kuniholm.

“The system is broken, and democracy is dying in Pennsylvania if we don’t fix it,” Kuniholm said.

Gerrymandering is such an important topic for the league that in 2016 members helped launch Fair Districts PA, an organization fighting for competitive elections. Kuniholm serves as chair and says the organization is closely watching two ongoing court cases that, if the pieces fall into place, could require a redraw of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts ahead of next fall’s general elections.

“Normally, the courts don’t involve themselves in a legislative process. It will be interesting to see what happens,” she said.

Also following closely is Michael Li, senior redistrict counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.

Li points out that even though Pennsylvania is a closely contested state, usually voting about 50-50 in statewide elections, Republicans hold a 13-to-5 edge in congressional districts. But he’s more troubled by the noncompetitiveness in recent elections.

“The problem is not only the 13-5, but that it’s locked in,” Li said.

Li explains that although gerrymandering has existed for more than 200 years, new technologies now allow politicians to use “surgical” precision in redrawing maps. A redraw by Pennsylvania Republicans in between the 2010 and 2012 elections provides evidence.

In the first election, 51 percent of Pennsylvania voters picked Republicans and 47 percent picked Democrats. Power flipped, with the Republicans gaining five seats for a total of 12.

Two years later Democrats surged back, winning 50 percent of the vote to the Republicans’ 48 percent. But Democrats actually lost a district, and haven’t won one since.

Having seen enough, the League of Women Voters filed suit against the state this year. What happened next was highly unusual: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled 4-3 to fast track the suit and require a lower court judge to render a decision by Dec. 31. Even if the court favors state Republican leaders contesting the suit, the state Supreme Court could overrule it.

“The question becomes, ‘How can you undo [gerrymandering]?’” Li said.

Because primaries would start in the spring, a likely route would be to put in place an independent “special master” to redraw the lines for the 2018 elections, Li said. The court could also favor a request from the league to make new rules for legislators for future redistricting efforts, such as not allowing the use of party registration data in the process.

“The long-term solution is an independent commission,” Kuniholm added.

Should both courts rule in favor of state Republicans, there’s a second, federal gerrymandering case brought by five Pennsylvania voters that began in December. But Li thinks it’s a long shot, as it argues “that you can’t have any partisanship at all” during redrawing, he says.

“This has not been tried before,” Li said. “It potentially opens the door in a way that the U.S. Supreme Court might not be comfortable with... where literally any map is challengeable.”

By June, both suits could be moot, depending on how the Supreme Court rules on a third suit, Gill v. Whitford. The landmark case out of Wisconsin could make highly partisan gerrymandering unconstitutional nationwide. Although the Supreme Court has heard gerrymandering cases in the past and declined to curb it, Li believes new data and mapping technologies allow a higher level of scrutiny that could turn the tide.

Should all fail, Kuniholm says there will be one consolation. Through court documents, she says the public will learn what kinds of conversations went on in 2011 when Pennsylvania Republicans redrew the maps.

“I want people to see these are the names of the people who sat in a room and deliberately denied millions of Pennsylvanians a fair, free vote,” she said. “No matter what the decision in these cases, that information will be made public.”

Turning the Page

To everything, there is a season


The winter outlines of bare trees against the sky always look particularly beautiful when dusk briefly passes behind them—the elegant and intricate silhouettes are otherworldly. 

That they are the same creatures who only months ago were abundant with leaves fluttering in warm sun is fascinating. In this part of the world, they tell us the story of the seasons, and we hungrily turn the pages again and again without tiring of the narrative, like a child with a favorite picture book. In late summer’s gauzy haze, we begin to taste the crisp fall. When winter has gone on too long, we ache for spring. The transitory but relatively reliable passing of the seasons is, in and of itself, a kind of parental comfort. 

That may explain why our present time and place feels more and more discomfiting. Not just politically—as we bear witness to a country wrestling with itself to enact its ideals, or culturally, as we reckon with how to value the female half of the human race without devolving into yet more divisiveness—but as, in the background, a larger and more dangerous disruption lurks, too vast and frightening to comprehend: Our seasonal narrative, our climate, is changing. 

We are caught, in the present moment, between knowing in our bones that something is wrong, and convincing ourselves that all will be well in the end, that a deus ex machina solution will present itself at the appropriate time and save the day. 

In his brilliant book “The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable,” author Amitav Ghosh explores and connects the stories we’ve told ourselves about how and where we choose to live and what impacts those choices have on our living planet. He calmly and eloquently reminds us that it is naive at best and, at worst, a kind of collective delusion to continue to believe a fiction wherein humanity—our vast systems of habitat, commerce and politics—are unconnected to the planet we live on. 

That sounds dramatic. The truth sometimes is.

It’s time for winter, then. Time for reflection, to look at the shape of things as they are, with no ornaments to distract us, and to choose a path forward. The stories we tell ourselves are vital. They reflect our cultural mores and priorities. The page we turn now becomes the next generation’s story, and it feels fair and just that it should be one that is appropriate to read to our children.

The British writer Ted Hughes, probably best known in America as Sylvia Plath’s husband and the author of the children’s story “The Iron Giant,” also has a formidable body of dark, muscular poetry. He’s unsparing in his portrayal of the brutishness of nature. But he unspools to us a line of occasional relief, as in the opening of “The Guide,” when he writes, “When everything that can fall has fallen/Something rises.” How far will we fall, and what will rise, I wonder, in the coming years? What will our story be? 

As the editor of Grid for the past several years, this is the question I wrestle with every month, and this month’s issue will be my last as editor-in-chief. I’m looking very forward to continuing to contribute to the magazine while I put my energy into other creative projects, but the past three years have been a wonderful, long season. It’s been an intellectual, creative, collaborative and, at times, emotional challenge to give the magazine a cold, spare spine of truth but to leaf it out with beautiful stories of positivity, resilience and hope. Everything changes—but you can expect that to stay the same. Thank you for reading, and for striving for a happy ending.

Heather Shayne Blakeslee


P.S.  I can't say thank you enough to all of our talented and dedicated writers, illustrators and photographers, as well as the whole team at Grid. You are wonderful, and Philadelphia is a better place for your talents and hard work. I am no longer in the office, but I can be reached via email through my personal website. Please keep in touch!

Illustrating A Point

Artists tackle the dangers of fracking in a large illustration at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


By Walter Foley

The bog turtle—known to biologists as an “indicator species” that can provide valuable information about the health of an ecosystem—emerges from the water as a sign of optimism in the upper-left corner of a 13-by-10-foot illustration about the natural gas industry.

“Drawing species that might not exist in 50 years because of today’s policies is extremely political,” says Bri Barton, who, along with fellow artist Meg Lemieur, presented the pen-and-ink political/educational poster “Water Ways” on Dec. 2 in the Perelman Building at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The poster criticises the hydraulic fracturing industry through a single panoramic woodland scene in which every detail tells a story, and the activists, politicians and citizens are represented as plants and animals.

The Department of Environmental Protection appears as the skeleton of a bald eagle, alone at a desk with stacks of untended papers.

The Federal Energy Regulation Commission is depicted as a rubber stamp that impulsively approves any drilling project put in front of it. 

Baby birds—Pennsylvania’s representatives—eagerly chow on money dropped down their beaks by industry lobbyists.

“Our main goals for creating this illustration are to inform, enrage and empower,” the duo says via email.

The project was funded through the Leeway Foundation’s 2017 Art and Change Grant, which provides “up to $2,500 to women and trans artists in Greater Philadelphia to fund art for social change projects.” 

“We researched a lot of information at first, interviewed many people who are involved with resisting the natural gas industry, decided together how we would visually represent each story, and drew simultaneously on the poster,” said Lemieur, a graphic designer, illustrator and marketing manager for nonprofits. “Each piece was drawn collaboratively. And we got along during the whole nine months of creating the project!”

The 39-by-27-inch posters, which are available on their website and at yet-to-be-scheduled presentations in 2018, come with a booklet explaining the symbolism and history that went into the piece. Barton’s friend Marlon MacAllister, who has led workshops for Philadelphia Assembled, assisted in Saturday’s talk, and the artists hope to train more people to use the illustration in future presentations.

Before guiding the audience through the many narratives contained in the image, Lemieur, 33, and Barton, 28, opened with an acknowledgement that the land they were standing on was the home of the Lenni Lenape. 

A damaged turtle shell at the top-left corner of “Water Ways” represents how “environmental devastation... is always felt first and hardest by oppressed people,” the artists explain in their booklet. 

The poster is drawn in the style of cantastoria—from the Italian for “story-singer”—and bordered by a sketch of Marcellus shale. The bottom-center of the illustration is framed by a trilobite and some crinoids, a nod to the organisms that make up the gas trapped in this shale, which must be broken up before liquids are pumped into the earth as part of the extraction process.

Lemieur and Barton stress during their presentation the importance of showing compassion toward on-site workers—represented in their poster as bulldogs—who often take these dangerous jobs due to scarcity of work.

“Humans are quick to empathize with characters in stories that look similar to them, and quick to dismiss the stories of humans who don’t look like them,” Lemieur said. “More-than-human characters help to remove the viewer’s bias from their interpretation of the story... We also used plants and animals because this is their story, too.”

On whose wall would the artists most wish to see their poster displayed?

“In the ‘tree sit’ at Camp White Pine, a resistance camp currently blocking the Mariner East 2 Pipeline,” Barton said. 

“Maybe in the office of the Department of Environmental Protection,” Lemieur said, “to be used as a tool by staff to remind them that the government should work for the people and not for corporations.”

A Mess of Mint

In an overgrown herb patch, a hitn of health, a family line and leaves of black history


By Constance Garcia-Barrio

"Your mint’s running amok,” my neighbor, an avid gardener, said one sunny afternoon. “Let it go much longer, you’ll need a machete to hack it down.”

Despite the warning, I aimed to let the mint keep growing, though I didn’t say so. Mint has wound its way through generations of many of us black Americans. “In 1792, a man, aged 72, was cured of the stone by taking the expelled juice of red onions and horse mint…” Samuel Stearns wrote in his 1801 Materia Medica. “The discovery was made by a Negro in Virginia, who obtained his freedom thereby.” My elders don’t claim such stellar results, yet mint has long played a role in our health.

From my great-grandmother, Rose Wilson Ware, or just Maw, came herbal remedies from slavery time.  Born into bondage around 1851 near Partlow, Virginia, Maw lived until 1964, 113 years. For her and many other enslaved blacks, herbal medicine meant survival. She used mint for stomach complaints and to ease morning sickness—maybe on the advice of Aunt Alsie Ellis, the local midwife—during her pregnancies with the first generation of children born free.  

When my mother put down roots in Philadelphia in the late 1920s, she hid some of her heritage, afraid that being both black and Southern would shackle her to low-wage jobs.  She hired a speech therapist, worked with him for two years, and erased her Southern accent. On the other hand, Mom didn’t conceal her use of herbal remedies.  When anyone had a chancy stomach, she would cut a mint leaf into tiny pieces and add it to a teaspoon of sugar for the family member or guest. Mom also used mint—transplanted from Maw’s farm in Virginia—to add a cooling bite to her iced tea.

In time, I learned that mint could not only flavor tea or slow-roasted lamb, but my very life. Before Mom moved into assisted living, I took a few shoots of mint—flourishing years after she had transplanted them from Maw’s land—and planted them in the near-corner of my tiny front yard. Now, when I feel the need of Maw’s strength, I pinch off a leaf and eat it, a spiky green prayer.

Mint holds yet another dimension, I found. Some years ago, aching to include in my life rituals lost or frayed during slavery time, I became initiated as a priestess in the Yoruba religion, a sister tradition to Vodoun. My godmother, who led the ceremony, once explained that taking a mint bath can open one’s life to good energy.

And so, I said nothing to my worried neighbor. I let my mint grow till I had enough to cover the bottom of my old clawfoot tub. I turned on the hot water one night, and, after an amen or two, I climbed in. The mint’s sharp scent left me feeling cleaner in body and spirit.

I admit that my neighbor is right—at this point, I would probably have to rent a backhoe to dig out all that hardy mint. Pink daisies would prettify my little yard, but, given a choice, I would rather have that mess of unruly mint that reaches back to Maw.

Constance Garcia-Barrio lives in Philadelphia and often writes on aspects of African-American history.

Shape Shifting

Ways to transform your body and mind this winter.


New Year’s resolutions about fitness are inevitable. But why wait until then to renew your gym membership yet again? If you complement your current routine with something that will keep your interest over the coming months, you might just keep off those winter pounds. Fitness classes abound in Philadelphia in every neighborhood, so there’s really no excuse not to get out there and try something new. Want to strengthen your core while you sharpen your strategy skills? Try fencing or rock climbing. Don’t want to feel as though you’re working out? Try dance fitness or a new kind of yoga. Whatever you’re looking for, Grid’s got you covered with cool specialty workouts all over town that offer flexible schedules and payment options.

En Garde!: Shakamaxon Fencing Club
We recently checked out this low-key, beginner-and-kid-friendly fencing club, and there’s a lot to love here. First, you’re going to get a core-centric workout that will also give you killer glutes while you pretend to kill people: Fencing is equal parts aerobic stamina and Shaolin strategy, with plenty of plyometrics thrown in. If you like yoga or martial arts for the melding of body and mind, or CrossFit for its competitive, mind-over-matter ethos, fencing may be an option for you. The intro classes at Shakamaxon Fencing Club mix teens, adults, men and women, and if you get your head in the game you can go from tripping over your footwork to winning practice bouts in four weeks. It’s truly an all-ages sport—national competitions offer age groups for the little ones as well as fencers who are over 70. The brand-new club is based in Queen Village and run by Chris Spencer, with help from Dan Korschun. The pair were nationally-ranked fencers and teammates at Brandeis who narrowly missed qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team; Spencer is the current head coach at Haverford College. He’s not going to take it easy on you, so expect that if you or your kids are signing up, there will be discipline and required manners all around, even if you’re playing fun games: Spencer will channel his inner Mr. Miyagi as you play fencing-centric rock, paper, scissors or do relay races without a fencing foil in sight. Don’t think too hard about this one. It’s a great workout, all of the equipment is provided at each class, it’s really fun. And, if for some reason you’re ever challenged to a duel, you may actually be able to defend yourself, or even win. En garde!

Various times and locations, Queen Village;

Master the Mountain: Go Vertical Indoor Rock Climbing
Rock climbing is one of those workouts that feels a little too pro to just pop into a gym and try out for a day. You need special shoes and equipment, and then there is the whole issue of falling if you’re not secured properly, so it can feel a little intimidating. But it’s also a great low-impact, full-body workout that requires you to center yourself mentally—while you’re up there on the wall, you have to make strategic decisions about your route and solve problems under duress. So what’s a girl to do? Head to Go Vertical rock climbing gym and take advantage of two-hour lessons that will show you the ropes. You’ll learn technique and safety procedures for the two main styles of rock climbing, bouldering and rope climbing, the latter of which requires you to learn how to safely rope yourself to another climber. Go Vertical also offers advanced classes and private instruction; and a special youth certification is available for teens who want to get into the sport. The gym’s owners will tell you that climbing is 50 percent strength and 50 percent strategy, and that forming good habits early on is key. Rock climbing can be an all-ages sport, where women often compete equally with men. The trust factor inherent to climbing is why Go Vertical sometimes hosts corporate retreats: If you can trust someone on the wall, the staff meeting should be a walk in the park. Showers and locker rooms are available, and during the week the gym is open until 10 p.m., so if you’re pulling late nights at the office, there’s still time to hit the wall and give it your all.

950 N. Penn St.; 215.928.1800;

Sweat It Out: HotBox Yoga
Yoga classes are everywhere in Philadelphia, and you can take your pick of traditions that might suit your needs, from vinyasa or hatha techniques that focus on uninterrupted motion and breathing to traditions such as ashtanga that attract practitioners who want something more muscular and physically demanding. People at Hotbox Yoga, started in 2011 by Brad Young, practice Bikram (“hot”) yoga: Rooms are heated to about 95 degrees, which increases your heart rate while you’re practicing and helps your muscles and joints warm up more quickly. You’re going to sweat—a lot—so be sure to hydrate before and after class. Any kind of yoga or fitness class can get expensive, and Hotbox has two options if you’re trying to keep an eye on your budget. At both the Manayunk and West Philadelphia locations you can take $10 community classes, and there’s also a quasi-co-op option: joining the Energy Exchange program. You can practice for free if you’re willing to spend some time keeping the studio in shape and pitching in with light administrative duties such as checking students in for class. The only catch is that before applying to do the work exchange, you must put in 30 days of practice at the studio. If you’re really ready to join the team, Hotbox also offers a 200-hour Yoga Alliance-approved program for teacher training. The weekend program is intense, and you can expect to be at the studio for 12-hour days while you’re training. And if you want your yoga with a bit of a beat, the Hotbox Power Beats classes will keep you going. The hip-hop-based Namaslay class is probably a good indication that this is a studio where you don’t have to take yourself too seriously, even if you have a serious practice.

West Philadelphia: 3527 Lancaster Ave.
Manyaunk: 4163 Main St.; 267.275.8441;

So You Think You Can Dance?: Philly Dance Fitness
It never fails: You haven’t been out dancing in a while and then you hit the floor at your cousin’s wedding, only to realize that keeping it going for more than two songs is a lot harder than it used to be. Dancing is fun, hard work, and choreographer Deborah Hirsch, owner of Philly Dance Fitness, wants to make sure you have a good time while you’re getting down. The classes are held at various studios in Center City, South Philadelphia and Fairmount, and dancers 14 and older of all skill levels are encouraged to sweat it out. You can drop in on classes or make a reservation to secure your spot. While most gyms offer a few dance-related fitness classes, the sheer number of styles offered by Philly Dance Fitness really stands out. They have a diverse team of instructors steeped in their particular traditions, whether it’s styles like Zumba that were born in a gym or the more traditional performance-oriented traditions such as ballet. You can check out hip-hop-inspired House Party Fitness classes, or, when you’re feeling like throwing some jazz hands, sign up for Jazz Cardio Fusion. But it doesn’t end there, and there will definitely be something that turns your head: Been meaning to learn how to work a pole? Try the striptease class. Always wanted to be in the movies? Bollywood dance classes might be for you. There’s also tap, African dance, cardio belly dancing, swing classes and—when you’ve got to pull out all the stops at your own wedding—a ballroom dancing class that has your name on it.

Various times and locations; 215.645.2717;

Uphill, Both Ways: Incline Running
No one really likes running on hills, but it’s a great way to up your running game. Even if you run at a slower pace, the extra effort of running on an incline activates your muscles almost 10 percent more than when running on a flat surface. Incline Running in Haverford, Pennsylvania, boasts a cadre of state-of-the-art treadmills that mimic running outside, are kind to your joints and don’t require you to change your running mechanics. If you’re a serious runner looking for next-level fitness or to smash your personal best at the next half-marathon, this could be the workout you’re looking for, and you won’t have to go it alone with a fitness watch as your only encouragement: A coach is there to lead each session (think spin class for runners), and you’ll be training alongside other overachievers. Some classes also include core work and yoga for a more holistic workout, and you’ll have choices when you’re ready to work specifically on aspects of your running, such as strength or endurance. Workouts run from 30 to 60 minutes, and if feeling better in your own skin rather than training for a serious race is your goal, you can still take advantage of the classes here: Power walkers and joggers are also welcome. The state-of-the art studio is also equipped with fully stocked locker rooms and an in-house café to fuel you up after you’ve given it your best. 519 W. Lancaster Ave., Haverford, Pa.


Go Hard or Go Home: The Wall Cycling Studio
Cycling is a great low-impact, all-ages exercise that also allows you explore the city. But the winter months can put a damper on training. Even if you’re willing to brave the cold, black ice is no one’s friend. Enter The Wall Cycling Studio, named for the killer incline that’s part of the late, great Philadelphia International Cycling Championship. It was started by self-proclaimed “indoor cycling junkies,” and they put their own spin on spin: You can find barre fitness and yoga classes, as well as interesting cross-training combinations such as Power Barre Asana and Baradio Sculpt, which focuses on interval training; and, to round out the mash-ups, there’s a Spin and Barre Fusion workout. Another option, the Spin + Strech, allows you split your time between a cycling workout and guided stretching. Classes are generally offered in the morning (some start as early as 5:15 a.m.) and in the late afternoon to early evening. If you can’t commit just yet, The Wall offers packages in class bundles as few as three, so there’s plenty of time to sample what works for you and then sign up for a larger package, a monthly unlimited option or commit to a full year.

107 Cotton St.; 267.336.7928;

Age of Anxiety

Is it social media? Smartphones? Or are we just seeking treatment for what was already there?


By John Henry Scott

If you’ve been reading the headlines lately, you might wonder if America is suffering from an anxiety epidemic. Few of these articles agree on a cause—speculations include smartphones, the results of the 2016 election, and grown children moving farther and farther away from their parents—but most seem to allude that anxiety disorders are becoming more prevalent, especially among the generation of kids raised from birth with social media profiles.  ¶  Statistics from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America show that anxiety disorders are now the most common mental illness in the country, affecting 40 million Americans over the age of 18 every year.

But are we more anxious, or do we have a more defined vocabulary to describe our anxiety and better ways to diagnose it? Dr. Edna Foa, founder of the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety (CTSA) at the University of Pennsylvania, doesn’t believe that these disorders have become more widespread in her nearly four decades of anxiety research. Instead, Foa attributes the rise in the number of anxiety-related diagnoses to an increased willingness among those suffering to seek treatment. 

“When I started in this field, people with OCD were reluctant to tell anyone, even hiding from their families,” she said. 

At the time, there was a serious stigma surrounding mental disorders. People suffering from conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive compulsive
disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and panic disorder also dealt with a very real fear of being labeled “crazy” and perhaps even institutionalized. 

According to Foa, once it was discovered that symptoms of some of these disorders could be drastically reduced through treatment, many more people started coming forward. Today, the CTSA clinic treats all of the disorders mentioned above as well as many specific phobias. 

“It began to be mentioned in the media and became part of societal knowledge,” Foa said. “Pharmaceutical companies were very much a part of this exposure because they wanted to sell the medication.” 

Pharmaceutical companies started anxiety disorder awareness programs to increase demand for their medication. A happy side effect of these money-making ventures was that the stigma surrounding mental illness began to erode. 

“I feel like anxiety has always existed but it’s more recognizable now that we have more communication about it,” said Alex Karaba, 27. “It’s something you’re born with.” 

Karaba, a restaurant server in Center City, was diagnosed with GAD last year, after struggling with symptoms for years. 

“When you have an anxiety disorder, you don’t talk about it,” he said. “You just assume that’s what being alive is.” 

To treat his disorder, Karaba meditates and practices yoga. The routine helps him in his day-to-day, but he admits he feels he’s not doing enough and is considering going back to therapy.

“Simply having a conversation about anxiety helps,” he said. “Saying things out loud, just explaining how it feels gives me a little more perspective than stewing inside of my head.”

While more people are seeking treatment, ADAA statistics tell us that only 36.9 percent of the 40 million American adults suffering from an anxiety disorder receive treatment. This figure may have to do with the difficulty of finding, accessing and affording the appropriate course of treatment. 

Katie Harshaw, 24, is a social worker in Morrisville, Pennsylvania. She suffered with GAD and PTSD for years until she finally found a medication that allowed her to function in daily life. Prior to finding the right treatment, she struggled with drug addiction, a result of self-medicating. As a child, her anxiety disorders kept her out of school. 

For those seeking treatment, Harshaw recommends having a support system, which she defines as “at least one person that you can turn to when you are struggling.” She also recommends keeping busy as a way of warding off unproductive thoughts. Above all, she urges those suffering to seek medical attention. 

“I would not recommend treating anxiety at home,” she said. “If you have anxiety or panic attacks, see a doctor. Don’t self-medicate. Get help.” 

Dr. Thea Gallagher, clinic director at CTSA, echoes Harshaw’s sentiment. 

“If you have an anxiety disorder or you think you have one, get to a center that does good exposure work and get an evaluation,” she said. “It’s usually a pretty focused, short and goal-oriented protocol toward getting you better.”  

The treatment process at CTSA goes beyond talk therapy and medication. Instead, clinicians and researchers practice treatment methods such as exposure and response prevention (ERP) and prolonged exposure therapy (PE). 

“The most evidence-based, robust treatment for anxiety disorders is exposure therapy,” said Gallagher. “It’s of the mindset that the only way through anxiety is through, and that fear can be treated by facing it.”

Exposure therapy puts a patient into situations that would normally trigger an anxious response. Clinicians guide patients through these situations and help them confront their fears and anxieties. Foa used the example of a patient with an obsession with cleanliness. Such a patient would be placed in a less-than-sanitary environment and then prevented from washing her hands for a prolonged period. 

This practice may seem a bit cruel, but it helps break down the harmful associations with cleanliness within the obsessive mind. The patient discovers that, while regular handwashing is healthy, failure to wash one’s hands does not result in catastrophe. Cause and effect become more realistic in her mind. 

The CTSA also uses exposure to treat PTSD, asking patients to revisit their traumatic memories. It’s somewhat more controversial in the medical community, but, according to Foa, the results have been highly effective. When going back into their traumatic memories, patients often find themselves remembering details that change the way they think about the memory, sometimes removing guilt or blame.

“We want to break down those barriers,” said Gallagher. “A lot of the work we’ve been doing is showing that this treatment works. Research shows exposure therapy is the most effective treatment.” 

However, with generalized anxiety, ERP is not as effective because there are fewer specific stressors to target. People suffering with GAD are more prone to obsessively worry about hypotheticals such as being fired from a job or the death of a family member. Due to the intangible nature of these worries, the CTSA uses a modified exposure process for GAD patients. 

Gallagher told the story of a GAD patient who was having an outdoor wedding. The patient was consumed by obsessive worrying over whether it would rain on her wedding day. Clinicians helped the patient run through a scenario in which the wedding was rained out. Slowly, the patient began to be able to accept that outcome as a possibility and move past worrying about it. This course of treatment is rooted in mindfulness: identifying anxious thoughts, allowing them to come into your mind and then calmly moving past them. 

“GAD treatment is about helping people see that there is really no correlation between worry and outcome,” said Gallagher. “A lot of anxiety is your alarm system going off, telling you there’s a fire in your house when it’s really burnt toast. We want to help patients see that.”

Doctors Foa and Gallagher encourage anyone struggling with an anxiety disorder to reach out to CTSA. They are currently in need of people struggling with PTSD for upcoming research studies. The best way to contact the center is by phone at 215.746.3327.

Cannabis, the Medicine

Coming to a neighborhood near you. 


By Sue Spolan

When Brian Dwyer found out that his infant son, Waldo, had a rare form of cancer, his first stop was the world-renowned Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“There were tumors growing in his eyeballs,” explains Dwyer, whom you may know as the founder of Pizza Brain, the instantly beloved Kensington restaurant that garnered national acclaim upon opening. Waldo has a very rare but treatable form of cancer known as bilateral retinoblastoma. His blindness was the first sign that something was terribly wrong.

"I stared modern medicine in the face, in one of the best children’s hospitals in the U.S. The general treatment is hard drugs and steroids,” he says. “They treat it with chemo—or remove the eyes.”

Dwyer recalls it as a painful time for the whole family. “Those first few chemo sessions were one of the darkest periods of my life,” he says. 

Two family friends came to the rescue, suggesting cannabis oil as a nontoxic alternative to the devastating chemotherapy the baby was going through. 

Though he can’t say whether it was the cannabis or chemo, the Dwyer family saw dramatic improvements immediately upon administering the cannabis, and Waldo felt great relief. The cannabis oil appeared to work miracles. 

So, Dwyer bought it under the table. 

“I was broke, working 50 hours a week, and I felt like I had to keep it a secret. When the medical marijuana bill passed, it didn’t solve our problem,” says Dwyer, who knew it would be three years before his son could get legal cannabis in Philadelphia.

So, a year ago, Dwyer moved with his wife, Danielle, and Waldo to Washington state to continue pursuing alternative treatment for his son, who is no longer blind. Today, Dwyer reports that Waldo is tumor-free and “growing like a young giraffe.”

The Power of Prescription

One institution at the forefront of medical marijuana research is Thomas Jefferson University’s Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp, the first of its kind in the U.S. Australian multimillionaire Barry Lambert gave $3 million to the center, and a half-dozen philanthropists have since added $1.5 million in funding. 

Dr. Ari Greis plans to be the first physician certified to recommend cannabis at the Rothman Institute of Jefferson Hospital. As a physical medicine and rehabilitation doc, Greis sees patients who suffer from chronic pain. Many of those patients have turned to opioids. Greis envisions real therapeutic benefit from products that are mostly cannabidiol. 

“You may be able to get the effect without the high and confusion… Cannabis is so much safer than all these other legal drugs, like tobacco, alcohol and opioids,” says Greis, who has seen the terrible price patients pay when they become addicted to painkillers. 

Drug overdose deaths in Pennsylvania increased by 37 percent to a record high in 2016, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. When you add up all substance related fatalities in Philadelphia for 2016, there were 907 overdose deaths. 

As a physician, Greis wants to have control over cannabis dosing and frequency, just as he would with any other medication. “There is mounting evidence that cannabis can help us deal with the opioid epidemic,” says Greis, who cites multiple recent studies that associate cannabis use with decreased opiate intake and a significant drop in the use of prescription drugs overall.

Pay, Don’t Stay

Before setting foot in a Pennsylvania cannabis outlet, you’ll pay a $50 application fee to be placed on the patient registry. The card, available to adults 18 and older, enables patients to obtain and possess 30 days’ worth of product. Adults can also apply as caregivers. Parents and guardians can obtain cannabis for children under 18. 

There are currently 17 conditions that allow patients to obtain medical cannabis. None of these is a catch-all, “wink wink” diagnosis, such as anxiety or insomnia.

State Sen. Daylin Leach, author of the Pennsylvania medical marijuana bill that became law in April 2016, estimates that the first dispensaries will be operational in spring 2018. 

At the outset, these dispensaries will not stock the flowers of the plant. Smoking is not currently a medically approved form of administration. Rather, all products will be packaged as pills, oils, gels, creams, ointments, vaporizers, nebulizers, tinctures and liquids. Dispensaries will stock products, classified by strain, that are grown and processed in 12  state-approved facilities. 

While the marijuana plant contains hundreds of chemical compounds, the general focus of medical cannabis centers on two cannabinoids: THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). The former provides the psychoactive effect associated with getting high, while the latter is said to erase pain without the high. All manufactured cannabis products contain one or the other, or a combination of both.

Chicago-based Cresco Yeltrah, which was granted both grower-processor and dispensary licenses in Pennsylvania, plans to offer a modified version of its products now on shelves in Illinois dispensaries, but notes that the formulation will adhere to stringent Pennsylvania laws.

A Family Friendly Dispensary in Fishtown

The future Philadelphia cannabis dispensary is the architectural equivalent of a plain brown wrapper: intentionally easy to miss. Medical marijuana outlets aspire to be health and wellness centers, not hippie retreats with dab bars and Indian print bedspreads. If you’ve ever seen one of the dispensaries in New Jersey, you are familiar with this new vernacular. 

You will not know that Fishtown’s Restore Integrative Wellness Center, operated by Steve and Anna O., is a dispensary. Steve is a physical therapist and acupuncturist, and Anna is a pharmacist. 

“We are a husband and wife team. We’ve created a clinical model where our professions could merge. It’s a holistic health care institution,” says Steve, who grew up in South Philadelphia and works with geriatric patients in long-term care facilities. He became concerned by the volume of pills patients took. “That triggered something in me. I bet half of those pills could be eliminated if cannabis came into play.” 

Steve and Anna O., who also run Reboot Integrative Wellness Center in Elkins Park (not a dispensary), were delighted to be approved in the first round. “We did not come in just to set up shop as retail investors. Our team is as clinical as you’re going to get.”

“There will be no pot leaves on the front of the building,” according to interior designer Christina Casile, who, along with architect Erin Monaghan, are responsible for the look and feel of Restore. 

Monaghan and Casile are partners in the newly formed Design 710. Their challenge was to transform a disused 5,000-square-foot warehouse space at 957 Frankford Ave. into a health care center. The client wanted to create a sense of peace and wellness and move away from the secretive, illegal legacy of cannabis. 

“If a parent brings a child, the dispensary operators want them to feel comfortable checking in,” explains Monaghan, who aims for a soothing, comfortable experience. It will look like a health care facility. “We want it to be inviting and safe,” adds Casile.

Once you enter the building, you’ll see a white waiting room with clean lines and a modern, minimal sensibility. Call it a mix between a doctor’s office and a spa. Behind closed doors that open upon invitation, you’ll find yourself in a secure product room filled with glass cases and staffed by medical professionals. 

While dispensaries in other states have budtenders, Pennsylvania’s dispensaries will have licensed pharmacists on hand to counsel patients who have qualified for cannabis treatment. In the case of Restore, which will offer massage, acupuncture and other therapies, there will also be a licensed physical therapist on duty at all times. Patients will not be allowed to use products inside the dispensary. 

Restore is one of three planned Philadelphia dispensaries. The other two are in Northeast Philly. One of those, in an old Chi-Chi’s across from the former Franklin Mills Mall, is now tied up in a court battle. The other is at 8900 Krewstown Road, and there’s no word yet on an opening date.

No Room for Mom-and-Pop Farms or Shops

Already, the cannabis industry in Pennsylvania is bringing money into the state.

Each grower-processor application has paid a $10,000 nonrefundable fee and a $200,000 refundable permit fee to the state. The applicant has to provide proof of $2 million in capital. Dispensaries carry a lower price tag: a $5,000 application fee and $30,000 refundable permit fee, with proof of $150,000 in capital.

The state has divided application approval into several phases. In Phase One, 27 dispensary operators and 12 grower-processors have received the green light, as noted on the Pennsylvania Department of Health website. Phase Two approvals are expected in the first quarter of 2018, bringing the total number of dispensaries statewide to 50 and grower-processors to 25. 

The state’s Office of Medical Marijuana reports that it received a total of 457 applications: 177 for grower-processors and 280 for dispensaries. That’s a total of $3,170,000 in nonrefundable fees and $43,800,000 in refundable fees for the state.

Entrepreneurs with resources and business connections are poised to profit from legal marijuana; those operating on the black market will continue to risk jail time.  

Legalized Recreational Use on the Horizon in NJ and PA

The next step for Pennsylvania, according to Sen. Leach, is the passage of a recreational-use bill. PA Bill 213, which proposes that adult-use cannabis be sold through the state liquor store system, is now sitting in the Law and Justice Committee. 

Today in decriminalized Philadelphia, police officers may issue a $25 ticket for possessing fewer than 30 grams of cannabis. If you’re caught smoking, expect a $100 ticket, but one that is largely not enforced. According to the city’s chief administrative officer, only about 20 percent of the 7,000 tickets issued so far have been paid since the law went into effect in 2015. 

“I’m going to my first ribbon cutting in April,” says Leach, who’s been working on legalizing marijuana in Pennsylvania since 2013. He is optimistic that recreational-use laws will be passed within the next three to four years , and he looks to legalization in New Jersey as a potential watershed for Pennsylvania. 

With recreational cannabis coming to Maryland, Massachusetts and Maine, much of the East Coast will have easy access. If you’ve ever driven to New Jersey or Delaware to pick up wine, you know the drill. 

It remains to be seen what pricing will look like when and if recreational use is approved in Pennsylvania. Customers pay dramatically different sales tax in Colorado—and can buy vastly different amounts—depending on the type of dispensary, says Alex Rubin, business
director for the Denver chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and budtender in a Denver dispensary. For example, recreational cannabis carries anywhere from a 22 to 29 percent sales tax. On medical products, patients pay only 7 percent.

Rubin loves the quality control of a dispensary system: “In a black market, when you buy from a dealer, you don’t know what you are getting. You don’t know where and how it was grown. In a legitimate economy, cannabis goes through a testing process for pesticides and mold.” Strains, he says, are clearly marked. You’re not just buying a bag of weed. Is this what we can expect in Pennsylvania?

Patients, Be Patient

So far, 29 states plus the District of Columbia allow some form of legalized cannabis. The eight states that have passed recreational cannabis laws all have medical dispensaries as well. The biggest hurdle cannabis faces is federal law, which functions like individual shrink wrap over each state. You can’t transport or sell pot across state lines. Cannabis products must be grown, processed and sold in the same state. 

This federal-state mismatch causes all kinds of ripples. Cannabis dispensaries are mostly cash only. Visa and MasterCard don’t want the business. The Internal Revenue Service does not allow dispensaries to take typical deductions. Growers, processors and retailers in Colorado often pay employees in cash, then purchase money orders to pay utilities. 

Right now, medical marijuana in Pennsylvania is all about the process and no product. Construction hasn’t yet begun at Restore Integrative Wellness Center. Dr. Greis has yet to hear back from the state about completing the certification process. 

Patients and caregivers are now able to register for medical marijuana on the Pennsylvania Department of Health website. It’s a quick process: All you need is the information on your driver’s license. 

But for Dwyer and his family, the changes didn’t come soon enough. 

“You think I wanted to walk away from a successful business?” he says, thinking back to the time he was broke from buying marijuana under the table, exhausted from lobbying for reform in Harrisburg and worrying every minute about his son. “I miss Philly. I miss pizza. But family has to take priority.”

Stigma is still attached to medical marijuana, especially when it comes to dosing children. But with the experiences of hundreds of patients—including Dwyer’s son—the tide is turning. 

In Bellingham, Washington, where he and his family live in a lakeside cabin at the foot of a mountain, Dwyer buys cannabis just like he buys his eggs, bread and milk. 

Pennsylvania may get there one day, too.