A Luzerne County company awarded a state permit to grow and process medical marijuana plans to be up and running in White Haven early next year.
Gerald Feissner, director of community outreach for Standard Farms LLC, said the Pennsylvania Department of Health is giving permit recipients six months of lead time to be operational.
“We’re anticipating early 2018,” Feissner said Tuesday.
Standard Farms was one of 12 companies statewide to be issued permits as Pennsylvania rolled out the manufacturing component of its medical marijuana program. The companies will grow marijuana indoors and process it into oil, tincture and cream forms to be dispensed medically. It will not be available in its plant form to smoke. Dispensary permits are expected to be issued next week.
In April 2016, Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation that created the program to make medical marijuana available to patients who are state residents and under the care of a doctor for serious medical conditions spelled out in the law.
“This was a huge day for patients and for the people of Pennsylvania,” said state Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, a main sponsor of the law. “We can see light at the end of the tunnel.”
The Associated Press reported the 12 growers will have to meet standards that demonstrate they are operational, after which the state will give them permission to begin growing. If they don’t make it, state officials will give them more time, after which the agency will consider what next step to take, said John Collins, director of the Office of Medical Marijuana.
The department awarded two grower/processor permits in each of the six regions across the state. Standard Farms along with Pennsylvania Medical Solutions LLC in Scranton were the recipients in the Northeast Region encompassing Luzerne, Lackawanna, Carbon, Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton, Pike, Wayne, Wyoming and Susquehanna counties.
In addition to the locations and names of the permit recipients, the state released scorecards used to decide which applicants were most worthy. They were judged on such aspects as security, storage, processing and extraction, and community impact.
Standard Farms scored 753.27 out of 1,000, according to the department.
Collins said additional information about the grower-processors, including the names of the principal owners, is expected to be released in July.
Patients and caregivers should be able to register in September, with cards being issued in November with patients being able to acquire the drug in 2018.
Standard Farms will set up shop in a 28,000 square-foot building at 411 Susquehanna St. and add another 16,000 square feet. To start, the company will employ between 35 and 40 people. The facility is located on an 8-acre property that can accommodate further expansion of operations, Feissner said.
Feissner, 31, the son a former district judge in Freeland, said the permit is the culmination of three years of work, lobbying, advocating and educating about the benefits of medical marijuana.
“I know the medical side of it,” Feissner said.
His background is in criminal justice, but there is a team of qualified people involved to start the operation and deliver the products to market, he said. Feissner said at this time he could not provide a “solid number” on the investment made by the company.