Two Berks firms granted med­i­cal pot li­censes

The Kutztown Area Patriot - - RELIGION - By Evan Brandt ebrandt@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

HARRISBURG » Two Berks County ap­pli­cants were granted state per­mits to be­gin grow­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana in South­east Penn­syl­va­nia, it was an­nounced Tues­day af­ter­noon.

Franklin Labs LLC has plans to op­er­ate its grow fa­cil­ity out of a former Pepsi dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter on Cen­tre Av­enue in Read­ing that closed last year.

Prime Well­ness of PA LLC will grow med­i­cal mar­i­juana in the South Hei­del­berg In­dus­trial park.

The two were among 12 to­tal per­mits awarded statewide as Penn­syl­va­nia be­comes the lat­est state to im­ple­ment med­i­cal mar­i­juana reg­u­la­tions.

To process the ap­pli­ca­tions, the Depart­ment of Health di­vided the Com­mon­wealth into six re­gions and only two per­mits were is­sued in each re­gion.

The South­east re­gion is com­prised of eight coun­ties — Bucks, Ch­ester, Delaware, Montgomery Berks, Lan­caster, Schuylkill and Philadel­phia and gen­er­ated 45 ap­pli­ca­tions — the most of any re­gion ac­cord­ing to the list of ap­pli­cants re­leased in April.

John Collins, di­rec­tor of the of­fice of med­i­cal mar­i­juana for the Depart­ment of Health, said the award­ing of per­mits is a “sig­nif­i­cant step for­ward” in Penn­syl­va­nia’s year-old pro­gram to in­tro­duce med­i­cal mar­i­juana to the state, a new in­dus­try con­ser­va­tively es­ti­mated to be worth $150 mil­lion.

In all, more than 177 grower/processor ap­pli­ca­tions were re­ceived across the six re­gions. An­other 280 ap­pli­ca­tions for dis­pen­saries were also re­ceived.

The win­ners of those per­mits, 27 in all, will be an­nounced by the end of June.

A physi­cians registry will be an­nounced in July and reg­u­la­tions for pa­tients and care­givers will be an­nounced in Septem­ber, Collins said.

The elec­tronic track­ing sys­tem for seeds and prod­ucts will be up and run­ning by De­cem­ber and Collins said Penn­syl­va­nia is on­sched­ule to be de­liv­er­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana prod­ucts by 2018.

“We re­main on track for 2018,” he said.

Of the 26 states which have le­gal­ized mar­i­juana in some form or an­other, only Penn­syl­va­nia did not re­quire ap­pli­cants for the per­mits to be res­i­dents of the state.

But it did have an ex­ten­sive scor­ing process and, in the in­ter­ests of trans­parency, the “score­cards” for each ap­pli­ca­tion are to be posted on the depart­ment web site shortly, Collins said.

The win­ners of the grow per­mits have six months to “be­come op­er­a­tional.” If they are not ready by then, they may be given more time and then re-eval­u­ated, Collins said.

Those who did not win per­mits can ap­peal their de­nial for the next 10 days.

Or, they can wait for what is be­lieved to be a sec­ond round of grow­ing per­mits that will take place in 2018 or later.

Collins said the names of the “agency ex­perts” who eval­u­ated the ap­pli­ca­tions were pur­posely kept anony­mous so as to avoid un­due in­flu­ence.

Also, even the names on the ap­pli­ca­tions were redacted, so they could be eval­u­ated with­out con­sid­er­a­tion of any other fac­tors or po­lit­i­cal con­nec­tions. “Let­ters of sup­port from law­mak­ers were not con­sid­ered” when eval­u­at­ing the ap­pli­ca­tions, said Collins.

State Sen. Daylin Leach, D-17th Dist., who co-spon­sored the bill with state Sen. Mike Folmer, R-48th Dist., con­firmed that.

“We were ag­nos­tic. I had no say in which ap­pli­cants were cho­sen, although some peo­ple didn’t be­lieve me and they have been very nice to me over the past few months,” Leach joked dur­ing a press con­fer­ence he held im­me­di­ately af­ter the Depart­ment of Health an­nounced the names of the per­mit win­ners.

“It’s al­most sur­real. Some­times I thought this day would never come,” said Leach. “There were many bat­tles along the way, many ups and downs, but this is a huge day for the peo­ple of Penn­syl­va­nia who will soon be able to get the medicine they need. It will also kick-start a huge in­dus­try in Penn­syl­va­nia that will mean thou­sands of jobs,” Leach said.

Be­cause the process of pick­ing per­mit hold­ers was so ar­du­ous — some of the 500 ap­pli­ca­tions re­ceived were 1,000 pages, said Collins — those who were se­lected “are the cream of the crop,” Leach said. “They know what they’re do­ing.”

There was not much in­for­ma­tion avail­able on Prime Well­ness, but the Frankliin labs web site in­di­cates they al­ready have an oper­a­tion in New Jer­sey which pro­duces nearly 70 per­cent of all med­i­cal cannabis in that state.

MAP COUR­TESY OF THE PENN­SYL­VA­NIA DEPART­MENT OF HEALTH

Red flags in­di­cate the lo­ca­tion of the med­i­cal mar­i­juana grower/processor per­mits awarded Tues­day. One is in the City of Read­ing. The other is in the Sink­ing Spring area.

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