It’s been a year since Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana bill was signed into law, and potential growers and dispensaries are one step closer to going into business.
In the state, 27 dispensaries and 12 growers/processors will get permits during Phase 1. Two dispensary permits and two growing/processing permits will be awarded for Region 4-Northcentral, which includes Centre and 11 other counties to the north and east, according to the state Department of Health.
The health department received more than 500 packages, which contained one or more application, and as of April 25, the department had logged 258 applications.
The health department is on track to issue permits by the end of June, said April Hutcheson, press secretary.
“When fully implemented, the Medical Marijuana Program will provide access to medical marijuana for patients with a serious medical condition through a safe and effective method of delivery that balances patient need for access to the latest treatments with patient care and safety,” according to the department’s website.
Medical marijuana is expected to become available in Pennsylvania early next year.
Under the program, patients with any of 17 stated “serious medical conditions,” such as cancer, epilepsy and HIV, will be able to buy pills, oils, ointments and other products derived from the cannabis plant (dry herbs and leaves are excluded).
For grower/processor permits, applicants paid a nonrefundable application fee of $10,000 and an permit fee of $200,000, according to the health department. Dispensary permit applications include a nonrefundable application fee of $5,000 and permit fee of $30,000 per dispensary location listed in the application, up to $90,000.
Permit fees will be returned to applicants who are not awarded permits.
Applicants are evaluated on several criteria on a pass-fail basis, such as proof of a clean criminal history, sufficient capital and capacity to operate and tax clearance, according to the health department.
Matt Guerry and Caralyn Reese are Penn State journalism students. Sarah Rafacz contributed to this report.
Local interest in medical marijuana
No one approached the borough with interest in opening either a dispensary or growing/processing facility, said borough Manager Ralph Stewart.
During the application process several months ago, the township received numerous requests for zoning verifications, said Mark Gabrovsek, zoning officer.
One of the applicants, he said, has secured a lease in the township and gotten a zoning verification.
Gabrovsek said he has no doubt that “when the dust settles” there will be at least one facility in the Centre Region, if not more.
The township was approached regarding both types of uses, said Ray Stolinas, planning and zoning director.
Early in March there were two calls about dispensaries, but they both fell by the wayside, he said.
The township received a third request from a Harrisburg lawyer, whose client was interested in a growing/processing facility, Stolinas said.
That use should meet the same requirements as manufacturing/processing/production facilities in the same zone, he said.
The township submitted a letter on behalf of Sirona Penn LLC saying a growing/processing facility would be allowed in the rural/agricultural zoning district.
Sirona Penn LLC is listed on the state Department of Health’s list of permit applicant facilities.
Stolinas said the maximum lot size would be 5 acres.
No one has contacted the township with an interest in either type of facility, said Todd Shea, zoning officer.
Growing/processing facilities would likely be able to locate in industrial zones and dispensaries would go in commercial zones, Shea said.
Township Manager Doug Erickson said Patton received a couple informal inquiries about dispensaries.
A dispensary in the township would be treated like a medical office, he said, so they could locate in commercial zoning districts.
A group appeared at a Borough Council meeting in January with interest in opening a dispensary, said Tom Fountaine, borough manager.
The borough sent a general letter to the group’s local representative advising him of what’s permitted under code, Fountaine said.
He said that’s the only inquiry he’s aware of, though he said the borough’s planning office might have received other inquiries.
A dispensary would be viewed as a commercial operation, he said, but the state does have limitations on where facilities can open.
For example, a dispensary can’t be located within 1,000 feet of a daycare or school.
A growing/processing facility would be an agricultural use, Fountaine said, though there’s not much space of that zoning type in the borough.