York group partners with Washington company to seek medical marijuana permit
If at first you don't succeed, join up with one of the nation's largest marijuana producers and try again.
That's the strategy being employed by York City-based Five-Leaf Remedies, which partnered with Washington state-based Grow Op Farms in submitting its application to the state seeking a medical marijuana business permit.
Grow Op is the parent company of the Phat Panda brand sold at hundreds of retail stores across Washington state, where recreational marijuana sales have been legal since 2014.
Five-Leaf — whose investors include local architect Frank Dittenhafer; Robin Rohrbaugh, president and CEO of the Community Progress Council; and Bobby Simpson, CEO of the Crispus Attucks Association of York — submitted its applications for grower/processor and dispensary permits to the state Department of Health just ahead of the May 17 deadline, according to spokeswoman Christina Kauffman.
The benefit corporation had received a variance ordinance from York City to turn a warehouse at 213 E. Poplar St. into a medical marijuana growing/processing facility but did not receive any of the permits awarded after the first round of applications.
Kauffman told The York Dispatch that the group was unlikely to apply for a second round of permits because the state wasn't clear on how they could improve their application, but that was before Grow Op came on board.
She said the partnership with Grow Op brings the expertise that the department clearly favored in awarding its first round of permits, while allowing the local investors to maintain the majority stake in the company.
Rebecca Countess, vice president of administrative services for Five-Leaf, said it's important that each of the corporation's 17 partners — now 18 with Grow Op — has an equal vote in decisions because each brings a unique perspective aimed at benefiting York City.
Robert McKinley, CEO and co-founder of Grow Op, said his company has offered consulting services to many other burgeoning marijuana businesses across the country, but Five-Leaf is one of the first where they will serve as public partners.
The company is the top producer of flower marijuana in Washington state and second-largest by revenue, he said.
McKinley said he liked the diversity of Five-Leaf's team and their strong commitment to the community.
Their grower/processor application would still place the facility at 213 E. Poplar St., while their dispensary application would place a facility at the former South York Diner, located just off the Queen Street Exit of Interstate 83 in York Township.
The state Department of Health will be awarding up to 13 grower/processor permits and 23 dispensary permits. Department officials did not respond to an inquiry seeking a timeline for when those permits are expected to be awarded.
Countess said she's "completely uncertain" after feeling so confident during the original application process, but she said they will continue to support the medical marijuana industry regardless.
Other dispensaries: One company that did get a permit in York County was Florida-based Knox Medical, which is preparing to open its medical marijuana dispensary at 648 Frederick St. in Penn Township.
Cam Martin, the company's associate director of retail operations, said they have hired seven people to work at the dispensary.
The county also may be getting a second dispensary, in West Manchester Township.
Chicago-based GTI, whose partners include former Baltimore Ravens player Eugene Monroe, shows a retail location, which they operate as RISE, on its website at 4395 W. Market St.
West Manchester Township manager Kelly Kelch confirmed that GTI officials have contacted the township about that location, which is the former Yorktown Pools facility, but have not yet submitted any building permits.
Linda Marsicano, a spokeswoman for GTI, responded in an email that they were planning to open the York County dispensary this summer, but she did not respond to a follow-up email about whether they had the necessary state permit to do so.
Permits were issued in six regions across the state.
The Department of Health's website shows that GTI received a permit to open a dispensary in Erie County, but that is in a different region than York County.
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.
— Reach David Weissman at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.