Competition to attract medical marijuana businesses ahead of permitting process

DUNCANNON, Pa. (WHTM) – Just a handful of permits will be available next year for medical marijuana growing facilities statewide.

Another local municipality wants in, so who gets a permit and who doesn’t?

The first round of applications are due between February and March. Now, a Midstate man hopes he can build his facility in Perry County.

Specifically, Tom Trite wants to build a growing and processing facility at the mostly empty business park in Penn Township. The facility would add between 60 and 80 jobs over time to the area.

He told ABC27 by phone Thursday he knows and likes the workforce there and has a good working relationship with county commissioners and township supervisors.

Indeed, the pharmacist got support for the project from supervisors at their meeting Wednesday night. But it’s not that simple.

“At the end of the day it’s really not the municipality’s decision,” Dave Black, president and CEO of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC, said.

Black said the jobs attached to growers and dispensaries are attractive to local governments, and not just those tied directly to facility operations.

“There’s going to be a lot of electricity, a lot of lights, a lot of heat, a lot of dirt, water,” he said.

That’s why Penn Township isn’t the only municipality fighting for medical marijuana businesses.

“It’s going to be very competitive,” Steelton borough councilwoman Keontay Hodge said.

Steelton, for example, recently passed a zoning ordinance to attract those kinds of companies.

Council will also consider tax breaks and other incentives.

“We’re trying to make sure at this point that we are at the forefront of the competitive communities that are trying to get this done,” Hodge said.

So why the competition?

The state is approving a dozen total grow permits statewide in phase one of the permitting process, split between six regions. In our 13-county region, there will be just two growing permits issued.

The state will approve four (of 27 in the state) dispensary permits in the region in the first round of applications as well. Each of those permits will allow the owner to operate three locations.

Any permits issued after the first round will be based on patient needs, not geographical area. The state expects hundreds of people to apply for this first round.

“And I think it’s probably going to be expected by the Department of Health to see positive feedback from the municipality where they’re applying for,” Black said.

The state health department hasn’t figured out exactly how they’ll score and judge applications. That’ll likely come next month, when applications will be released for business owners to start filling out.

But in a process that will see the vast majority of them rejected, companies will take any leg up a municipality will offer.

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