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Pa. medical marijuana industry looks to assert itself in 2017

HARRISBURG, Pa. – 2017 looks to be the year that the landscape for the state’s medical marijuana industry becomes established.

“They call it the ‘green rush’ and they think there’s a lot of money to be made, a lot of people to help,” Andrew Blasco, executive director of the PA Medical Cannabis Industry Group, said. “This is an entire industry just opening up the floodgates, so everybody wants a piece of it.”

On January 17, permit applications for those wishing to operate dispensaries as well as those who want to open growing and processing facilities will become available.

Applicants will then have from February 20 to March 20 to submit the application to the Department of Health. State officials estimate they will receive about 900 applications for the 27 dispensary and 12 grower/processor permits available in the first phase.

In the region designated as south central Pennsylvania, which includes much of the FOX43 viewing area, dispensary permits will be issued to applicants wishing to open one in Cumberland, Dauphin or York counties, and two grower/processor permits will be up for grabs. There are no county restrictions on where those facilities could be. Lancaster County will also have a dispensary, but for the Department of Health’s purposes, it is designated in the southeastern region.

With so much competition for few permits, one tactic many of the potential businesses are turning to is seeking out support from local municipalities.

“You need to have local support, you need to have the backing of your local government,” Blasco said. “That’s where it all starts. If your local government doesn’t want you there, trust me, you’re not going to operate there.”

The latest instance was on Wednesday, when a group called PA Options for Wellness received a letter of support from the Penn Township Board of Supervisors in Perry County. Other potential medical marijuana sites discussed in the last year include Middletown in Dauphin County, Cumberland Township in Adams County, Carlisle in Cumberland County, and Upper Leacock Township in Lancaster County.

The group wants to locate a grow facility at a business park in the township “to manufacture a marijuana plant that will be used to extract the cannabis oils from the product for medicinal research,” Supervisor Brian Peters said.

The plant would create 60 to 80 jobs, Peters said.

A public information meeting on the proposed PA Options for Wellness facility is scheduled for January 23 at 7 p.m. at the township municipal building.

The phased-in approach is only part of the increased level of oversight as the state’s medical cannabis industry grows.

“You’re going to go into a dispensary, and it’s going to look like you’re walking into a pharmacy,” Blasco said. “It’s not going to be anything that’s unfamiliar to you. You’re not going to be going in there buying joints or anything like that. You’re going to be buying medical products.”