Rosanna

Medical marijuana could be growing legally in Scranton by year’s end.

A facility planned for the city’s Green Ridge section is one of the first in the state to obtain a growing/processing permit from the state Department of Health. Statewide, nearly 200 applicants paid hefty fees and filed extensive applications to try to secure a spot in one of the state’s newest industries. On Tuesday, the department’s Office of Medical Marijuana announced the first 12 growing/processing permits.

Pennsylvania Medical Solutions LLC, a Minnesota company, received one of two permits granted in the 10-county northeast region, which includes Lackawanna, Luzerne and Lehigh counties. Its facility is planned for Rosanna Avenue off East Market Street in Scranton. Standard Farms LLC

in Luzerne County also obtained a permit and plans to launch a growing facility on Susquehanna Street in White Haven.

“We wanted to be in an area like Scranton, where we could make a positive impact on the economy,” said Medical Solutions spokesman Andrew Mangini.

Medical Solutions’ parent company, the physician-led Vireo Health, has subsidiaries in New York and Minnesota, where marijuana extracts are regulated for medical use and recreational pot remains outlawed.

“This fits in beautifully to our eds and meds play,” Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce President Bob Durkin said, explaining that the company supports the region’s burgeoning medical and education sectors.

“It puts a quality company doing pharmaceutical development right in the city,” he said.

The company plans to bring union jobs to Green Ridge and design cannabis-derived medicines for patients with cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease and chronic pain, among other illnesses.

Gerry A. Feissner, Standard Farms’ director of public outreach and community services, said the company has put in a lot of work over three years and is excited for the opportunity in White Haven.

“This medicine can give people better quality of life,” he said.

The news rippled through the pro-cannabis community, and longtime advocates cheered the milestone.

“I want to congratulate every one of the 12 who won (a permit),” said Jeff Zick, president of the Pennsylvania Cannabis Festival, an event that happens annually in Scranton’s Nay Aug Park, who had advocated ahead of Pennsylvania’s 2016 passage of its medical marijuana program.

“I think this is a big step for Pennsylvania,” he said, adding that patients that won’t be able to fully realize the program until they can grow their own pot at home.

The department’s Office of Medical Marijuana received 177 grower applications from across the state.

A panel of judges, who remain unidentified to the public, graded each applicant based on a number of qualifications like their waste management plans, business history and growing practices. The top 12 received permits.

The state also posted online redacted copies of the successful applications, including the names of the principal owners.

One successful application in Reading — Frankin Labs — has John Hanger as board chairman. Hanger is a former policy chief under Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and former environmental protection secretary under Gov. Ed Rendell.

Harrisburg has taken a tediously cautious approach to rolling out its marijuana plan.

The program allows for 25 total permits in the state; however, the health department opted to release only 12 for this first phase, two for each of six regions. There’s no date set for when it will award the other 13.

TheraBloom, in Kine Twp. about six miles from Hazleton, missed out on receiving a grower-processor permit because it is in Schuylkill County and falls within the southeast region. There, the department awarded permits to two Berks County firms, Prime Wellness of Pennsylvania and Franklin Labs.

Alex van Hoekelen of TheraBloom said getting passed over might have an advantage as companies chosen later can learn from the experience of the first 12 that obtained permits.

“There is going to be a lot of money spent before money is made,” van Hoekelen said.

The state also allows rejected growers to appeal Thursday’s scores.

“I looked at our scoring and what other companies had. There might be some errors,” van Hoekelen said. He said companies that applied in multiple regions had different scores and said at least three companies from out of state won permits.

John Collins, the director of the Office of Medical Marijuana, said the office will award permits for 27 dispensaries, or businesses that can sell medical marijuana products, before the end of June. Each permittee is allowed to operate three locations each.

Although patients cannot buy medical marijuana in Pennsylvania now, they can get it outside the state with a prescription.

Since they became available in July 2016, the office has issued 271 safe harbor letters, Collins said, which allow people to buy medical marijuana out of state for their children with serious illnesses and use it in Pennsylvania without fear of reprisal.

The general public shouldn’t expect to see rolling fields of cannabis anytime soon, Collins said.

“A grower/processor has to grow medical marijuana in an indoor, enclosed, secure facility,” he said. “These are not done in an open field.”

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS contributed to this report.

Contact the writer: joconnell@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9131; @jon_oc on Twitter

What’s next

June: Department of Health to name marijuana dispensary applicants who won permits before end of the month.

July: Physician registry for the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program to be completed.

September: Online patient registry to be completed.

6 months: Growers have that amount of time to meet standards before they can begin growing marijuana.

By 2018: The medical marijuana program will be fully implemented.

Northeast Region Applicants

Applicants were scored on various criteria, including their background, plan of operation, ownership, capital and tax status and plans to hire a diverse workforce:

Standard Farms LLC…………………………………. 753.27

Pennsylvania Medical Solutions LLC………………749.57

BrightStar BioMedics LLC……………………………746.15

Prime Wellness of Pennsylvania LLC………………744.88

GTI Pennsylvania LLC………………………………….735.85

Columbia Care Pennsylvania LLC…………………..721.83

PharmaCann Penn LLC………………………………..703.11

TruVo Holdings LLC…………………………………….693.07

Surterra Pennsylvania LLC……………………………688.33

Justice Grown Pennsylvania LLC…………………….682.39

Natural Care LLC………………………………………..661.75

The Sentel Group……………………………………….648.40

CPG Biotics LLC…………………………………………646.08

Mission Pennsylvania LLC……………………………644.22

Bluestone Biomedical LLC……………………………615.46

BioGreen Farms LLC…………………………………..600.78

Cansortium Pennsylvania LLC……………………….599.22

BJJB Management Inc…………………………………588.00

Tri-Mountain Pure LLC………………………………….579.38

Sanctuary Medicinals LLC……………………………540.47

PA Health & Wellness LLC…………………………….524.00

PAMJ LLC…………………………………………………502.67

Harvest AgPro Solutions LLC………………………..502.00

Pennsylvania Harvest Company LLC……………….444.13

PTMD Farm LP……………………………………………195.80

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