BLOG: Stiff competition for limited cannabiz permits

David Weissman
York Dispatch
Five-Leaf Remedies grows vegetables in a hydroponic growing area while vying for a permit to be one of the first medical marijuana grower/processors in the state, in York City, Thursday, June 8, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The state Department of Health on Friday released its complete applicant list for the state's first medical marijuana business permits, and there's sure to be a lot of disappointment once awards are announced.

A total of 462 applications — including 179 for grower/processor and 283 for dispensaries — were submitted, but the department will only be granting permits to, at most, 39 of these businesses.

The department has grouped the state's counties into six regions, with each region set to receive up to two grower/processor permits and a set number of dispensary permits based on need.

York County is part of a 13-county region that 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.

The region received 29 grower/processor and 40 dispensary applications, according to the department.

Among those applicants are Five-Leaf Remedies, which has been granted a zoning variance in York City to turn an industrial building into a growing/processing plant, and Viridis Medicine, which received zoning approval for a growing/processing facility in Hellam Township.

Both groups also submitted dispensary applications, according to department records.

The department does not list addresses for proposed facilities, but none of the other applicants are based in York County, according to a review of business names in state Department of State records.

The department plans to announce permit grantees by the end of June, and full implementation of the program is expected to be complete in early 2018.

Each permit application included a nonrefundable fee — $10,000 for grower/processor and $5,000 for dispensary — in addition to a permit fee — $200,000 for grower/processor and $30,000 for dispensary — that will be refunded to businesses not awarded permits.

Based on its final tally, the department should be in possession of $3.2 million in nonrefundable deposits and nearly $44.3 million in permit fees, though it will need to return at least $41 million of that sum.

Any money kept 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.

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