Borough council voted unanimously Monday to support a medical marijuana grow facility and dispensary, three days before the second round of applications for state licenses were due.
The State Department of Health will award two licenses, based on a point system, for each of six regions in Pennsylvania with a 13th approval awarded to the next-highest-scoring applicant. Mercer County is in Region 6, which includes 12 other counties.
In the county, Farrell and Hempfield Township have both offered their support of the industry by writing letters to interested companies.
The medical marijuana companies appreciate a letter from municipalities saying that the community would welcome the industry, explained council President Ben Beck.
Last month, Farrell City Council approved writing a letter of support for any qualified medical marijuana facility.
Hempfield wrote its letter for PharmaCann, a medical marijuana company interested in locating in the Greenville Reynolds Industrial Park. It was a unanimous decision by the township supervisors at the beginning of the month, said Todd Hittle, township secretary and treasurer.
Unlike Hempfield, however, Greenville does not have enough acreage to support a grow facility, nor does it have a space that is move-in ready for a dispensary, Beck said. The industrial park property is in Hempfield Township, not Greenville.
So although Greenville would support a medical marijuana industry, it is not up to council to find suitable locations for companies interested in the borough, Beck said. The companies are responsible for getting their applications together.
About a dozen grow facilities and at least one dispensary have expressed interest in settling in Greenville, Borough Manager Jasson Urey said at Wednesday’s work session.
With the first round of licenses given in June 2017, this is not a new conversation for some.
Six months ago, Hempfield had visited the idea of supporting marijuana industry in its township, Hittle said, and now it has done some additional research.
In late April, about 15 people from Hempfield met representatives from PharmaCann and Brad Gosser, executive director and vice president for Greenville Reynolds Development Corp.,, who arranged the meeting.
Hittle was one of those present, and he said he left the meeting assure of the company because it has established eight dispensaries and three cultivation sites.
“We still felt pretty good about the opportunity,” Hittle said. “When you’re talking about job opportunities for the community, you have to look at it as a whole.”
Gosser said PharmaCann told him that a grow facility would create 20 to 35 jobs initially and have the potential to double its work force within three years. Starting pay would be $15 an hour, and they would also hire higher-paying positions, including management and a pharmacist, Gosser said.
“Just like any other business, we’re talking jobs,” Gosser said.
Hittle said he and the community have learned from the past that large companies are “great,” but when they close it has a devastating impact on people’s jobs. A handful of smaller companies, like a grow facility, might be a better way to create jobs, he said.
One of the drawbacks might be people’s fears of marijuana, Hittle said, but he has heard no complaints from the community thus far.
“As long as it’s legal, we’re all for job opportunities for the community as a whole,” Hittle said.