BLOG: Pa.'s first medical marijuana licenses to be issued in June

David Weissman

Pennsylvania is on track to issue the state's first medical marijuana business permits by the end of June, state Department of Health officials said Wednesday.

Lolly Bentch, of Harrisburg, hugs Gov. Tom Wolf before he signs the medical cannabis bill into law in the rotunda of the Capitol in Harrisburg, Sunday, April 17, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Applications for dispensary and grower/processor permits were due March 20, and Health Secretary Karen Murphy said the department received about 500 packages, though some of those might contain more than one application.

To date, Murphy said, her staff has opened about half the packages and logged 258 applications, 152 for grower/processor permits and 126 for dispensary permits.

The department has released the names of the companies applying for permits in each region, though it has declined to provide addresses, or even counties, where those companies are hoping to locate.

Included in that list are 23 grower/processor applications and 12 dispensary applications in York's region, which also includes Adams, Bedford, Blair, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Mifflin, Lebanon and Perry counties.

The region is slated to receive two grower/processor permits and four dispensary permits, one of which is earmarked for York County.

Since exact business locations aren't included in the list, there is no way to know how many applied for locations in York County.

The list does include a dispensary and grower/processor license from Five-Leaf Remedies Inc., which has been granted a zoning variance to turn an industrial building in York City into a medical marijuana growing/processing facility.

Viridis Medicine LLC,  which has received zoning approval to build a growing/processing facility in Hellam Township, was included among dispensary applications currently logged.

A review of the other business names on the state Department of State business registry found no others registered with York County addresses. Nine of the businesses were registered in Dauphin County, while some weren't registered yet.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has announced how many initial permits will be granted for growers, processors and dispensaries of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania during the first phase of implementation.

It's possible that some of the companies are applying as out-of-state applicants, as Pennsylvania is unique to other states that have implemented medical marijuana programs in that it is allowing out-of-state companies to apply.

The department recently selected MJ Freeway, a Colorado-based business, to implement its seed-to-sale electronic tracking system, which will track medical marijuana from the planting of a seed until the plant is processed, sold to a dispensary and dispensed to a patient or caregiver.

Department officials said they expect to log the other half of the applicants within four to six weeks while the review board begins scoring applications based on factors including financial stability, location and security.

Each applicant was required to include a nonrefundable application fee — $10,000 for grower/processor hopefuls and $5,000 for dispensary hopefuls — and a permit fee — $200,000 for grower/processor hopefuls and $30,000 for dispensary hopefuls — that will be returned if the applicant isn't awarded a permit.

The department has not released how much total money it has received from applicants, but based on projections — by doubling the  number currently logged — the state will have banked $4.3 million from nonrefundable application fees alone.

That money will be deposited into the Medical Marijuana Program Fund, according to Act 16, which established the creation of the state's medical marijuana program.

The language of the act states that revenue in the fund will be appropriated by percentage:

  • 55 percent to the state Department of Health for operations and establishing the medical marijuana program
  • 10 percent to the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs for drug abuse prevention, counseling and treatment services
  • 30 percent to the state Department of Health for further research related to the use of medical marijuana
  • 5 percent to the state Commission on Crime and Delinquency for distribution to local police departments.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed Act 16 into law in May 2016, and the Department of Health projected patients and caregivers would be able to buy medical marijuana in the state within 18 to 24 months.

Murphy said that the department is on track to meet that timeline, which would mean cannabis businesses opening in early 2018.

With the passage of Senate Bill 3, Pennsylvania became the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana. For an industry that's established some roots in West Coast states, East Coast entrepreneurs, investors and medical professionals are still trying to understand the fast-growing market centered around a plant that's still federally illegal. As a newcomer to the subject — a kid — join reporter David Weissman as he follows the quickly evolving world that is the cannabis business with his blog, The CannaBiz Kid.

— Reach Dispatch politics reporter David Weissman at or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid. Like the blog on Facebook at The CannaBiz Kid.