PA: Medical Marijuana Facility Breaks Ground, Aims To Grow Jobs

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Ron Strider

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When AgriMed CEO Sterling Crockett first scouted a patch of land outside of Carmichaels, Greene County, last year as a possible location to build a medical cannabis facility, "there was just nothing," he said. "But you could visualize the potential."

That vision led to AgriMed getting one of the coveted 12 permits from the state to grow and process medical marijuana. On Wednesday, Mr. Crockett and his AgriMed partners, including former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jack Ham, were joined by local and state dignitaries for a ceremonial groundbreaking.

The site, once owned by Buckeye Coal, still is mostly gravel and mud, but with a state-mandated deadline to be operational before year's end, work is underway.

Crews from Accelerated Construction Services in Morgantown and Advanced Masonry Construction and Consulting of Carmichaels are busy excavating, setting footers and pouring concrete. The pre-engineered walls, roof and doors for the planned 16,000-square-foot facility have arrived, waiting nearby for construction to begin. Plans call for a completed building in 45-50 days.

Meanwhile, the firm has hired about dozen people, including a lab manager, head grower and human resources manager, Mr. Crockett said, and they're looking for a general manager.

Mr. Crockett expects AgriMed will be sending product to market by next March or April.

For Mr. Crockett, a self-described entrepreneur, joining the medical marijuana industry became personal after his daughter, Nicole Grudovich of Silver Spring, Md., was diagnosed with kidney cancer shortly after the 2011 birth of her daughter, Samantha.

Ms. Grudovich, who attended Wednesday's groundbreaking with her daughter, said the medications prescribed for her to combat the nausea and pain made her mind foggy. "It was a little rough," she said. "A lot of it I don't remember," including large portions of her daughter's first months of life.

Medical cannabis cleared that fog, she said, while holding the nausea at bay. "Finally, I was part of the family again."

Mr. Crockett estimates that including the lease, the materials and the hours put into the application process, AgriMed has already invested $5 million in the project.

He credited his team, but also the residents of Cumberland Township and Carmichaels who he said were welcoming from the onset, a sentiment echoed by Cumberland Township Police Chief James Vogel.

"The town is totally supportive," the chief said. "Any potential industry that can revitalize the community and produce something that is good for people – this is a medicine – we're supportive. It's hard not to be."

For Mr. Ham, the former Steelers' role in coming months will be handling marketing and communications for AgriMed.

"I have a lot of history with this site. I know this area," he said, referring to his post-football career with Ham Enterprises selling coal and noting that his wife grew up nearby. "I'm glad we can bring jobs into Greene County."

And while Mr. Ham said he has not dealt with some of the serious long-term medical problems other former pro football players have, he believes medical marijuana could be a valuable alternative to commonly prescribed painkillers.

"We've got to have a better way for ex-players to take care of pain management."

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Full Article: Growing green in Greene County: Medical marijuana facility breaks ground, aims to grow jobs | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Author: Steve Twedt
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Photo Credit: Nate Guidry
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