Cannabis Company Needs Extension

December 27, 2018
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Cannabis Company Needs Extension

The medical cannabis company building a $15 million growing/processing plant in Scott Twp. will likely ask state regulators for a deadline extension.

The state Department of Health awarded PharmaCann Penn Plant LLC one of two permits for the northeast region at the end of July.

PharmaCann’s permit award was among 13 grower permits issued in six geographic regions as part Phase II of the state’s Medical Marijuana Program. Harrisburg awarded 12 grower permits during Phase I, including for companies now operating in Scranton and White Haven.

The state gave Phase II growers until the end of January to be ready to grow cannabis, however, PharmaCann just closed on 18.28 acres in the Scott Technology Park that it bought from SLIBCO, the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce’s development arm, earlier this month.

Construction has yet to begin, and PharmaCann almost certainly will miss the deadline.

“We’ll likely file for an extension next month, and we’ll be operational within a few months,” said PharmaCann spokeswoman Kate Walden.

PharmaCann paid $925,000 for the land at the end of Life Science Drive, county real estate records show.

If a cannabis grower misses the deadline, the health department will send a letter explaining they are in violation of the state law, explained health department spokeswoman April Hutcheson.

From there, the company has 30 days to reply with a correction plan and 90 days from the time of plan approval to implement it. That doesn’t mean the company has to be ready to grow in three months, just that it’s put the plan in motion, she said.

“We’re kind of talking about hypotheticals until we hit that deadline,” she said. “I can’t tell you specifically what’s going to happen with PharmaCann.”

She’s yet to see a grower fail to meet its correction plan to the point endangering a grower’s permit.

“Our priority is to make sure we’re getting medication to patients that’s safe,” Hutcheson said. “And that they’re meeting all their obligations under the regulations.”

Not to be overlooked, it’s winter, which inevitably complicates any site preparation and building.

“We’re working on our design a little bit throughout the winter and getting positioned to start construction shortly after that,” Walden said.

Between 25 and 40 employees will work there at the outset.

PharmaCann plans to be operational by July.

The company brings just the kinds of jobs and industry chamber officials want in the Scott Technology Park, where SLIBCO has about 65 more acres up for grabs that are designated with a Keystone Opportunity Zone tax incentive program.

Chamber economic development specialist Bruce Reddock expects PharmaCann’s arrival will encourage other like-minded employers in science and tech sectors to build there, too.

“You have a higher level R and D (research and development) -type operation, and I think that gives other businesses the confidence that they can certainly operate and conduct business here in Scott Technology Park,” he said.

The building will comprise nearly 54,000 square feet, she said. That’s slightly less than its original announcement of 60,000 square feet.

Last week, the chamber said the building would be 36,000 square feet with the possibility for future expansion, but Walden said plans for initial construction call for 53,864 square feet, based on designs for another grower / processor operation that PharmaCann has in Massachusetts.

PharmaCann has yet to apply for land development approval, according to Scott Twp. officials.

In order to build, any plans would need a recommendation from the Lackawanna County Regional Planning Commission and Scott Township’s own planning commission before the board of supervisors gives them the final OK.

Other medical cannabis growers in the region chose to retrofit unused industrial buildings to grow marijuana rather than build new.

In Scranton, Pennsylvania Medical Solutions bought an old commercial clothing recycler at the end of Rosanna Avenue in the Green Ridge section. In White Haven, Standard Farms converted an old electronics factory and auto repair shop.

PharmaCann prefers to build new because it gives the company total control of the site and a better handle on unforeseen costs, Walden said.

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

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