Two Berks firms granted medical pot licenses
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.
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.