A cannabis plant's medical designation is pictured  on Sept. 16, 2016, during a tour of Colorado Harvest Company in south Denver.

A cannabis plant's medical designation is pictured on Sept. 16, 2016, during a tour of Colorado Harvest Company in south Denver.

Photo by Andy Colwell for Billy Penn

Philly shut out of first round of marijuana grow licenses

Of the two currently available spots in Southeastern PA, zero went to Philly.

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This story was updated at 2:05 p.m.

Two companies have won the right to set up a marijuana growing operation in Southeastern Pennsylvania — and neither will be in Philadelphia.

State Department of Health officials announced today that “Prime Wellness of Pennsylvania” and “Franklin Labs” have won the two coveted grower/processor licenses allotted for “region 1,” which encompasses Philadelphia, Delaware, Chester, Montgomery, Bucks, Berks, Schuylkill and Lancaster counties. Both are expected to set up facilities in Berks County.

The Department has yet to release the applications filed by each company. Those applications are expected to be made public by the end of July.

The principals of Franklin Labs — which is expected to set up in Reading — also operates Garden State Dispensary, a medical cannabis cultivator and dispensary located in Woodbridge, N.J. where the company apparently produced more than two-thirds of the medical cannabis dispensed in New Jersey in 2014. The company also operates seven cultivators and seven dispensaries in Colorado, and apparently has a pre-existing relationship with Thomas Jefferson University’s Center for Medical Cannabis Education and Research.

Prime Wellness, which is expected to set up shop in Sinking Spring in Berks County, appears to already have a medical marijuana outpost in Connecticut.

The entire Southeastern Pennsylvania region was awarded just two licenses overall as part of this phase and it will be granted 10 dispensary licenses as part of the initial phase of the program’s rollout. The Department is expected to announce the winners of dispensary licenses by the end of this month.

(Wondering what a legal marijuana growing operation looks like? Here’s a peek inside a massive marijuana farm in Colorado.)

Officials haven’t indicated when the next phase of license issuance will begin, but Pennsylvania law allows the Department of Health to issue a total of 25 combined grower/ processor licenses statewide, so it’s reasonable the southeast region of the state could see two more growers in addition to today’s license winners.

In the southeast region alone, 46 companies applied for just two grower/ processor licenses. Every applicant was required to pay a non-refundable $10,000 fee just to apply, in addition to another $200,000 that will only be returned to companies that aren’t awarded a license to operate. Each applicant was also required to provide proof of at least $2 million in capital.

Overall, the state listed 177 grower/ processor applications that were filed and accepted by the March deadline. (For those keeping track at home, that means the state made $1.8 million on the non-refundable license application fees for growers and processors alone.) Department of Health officials used a 1,000-point scale to essentially grade and rank each applicant, with points awarded in categories like community impact, operational timetables and security plans.

Companies that weren’t awarded a license will have 10 days from today to file an appeal with the state. Among the applicants that was not awarded a license was Snider Health, run by Lindy Snider, the daughter of the late Flyers founder Ed Snider. Lindy Snider has been particularly outspoken about Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program, and her company aimed to build a grow operation in Northeast Philadelphia.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health started the process of implementing the state’s medical marijuana program in April 2016 after the legislature passed the state’s first medical marijuana bill, which allows for marijuana to be dispensed to individuals who have prescriptions and suffer from any of 17 pre-selected conditions. Though most were under the impression that Pennsylvania dispensaries can sell just cannabis oils and extracts, an exception in the way the state’s law was written could allow for dispensaries to sell the plant itself.

There’s still a lot to do before the program gets off the ground, including licensing physicians to prescribe medical marijuana. Patient registration is expected to begin in September, and patients who will have access to medical marijuana are expected to get their cards by November. State officials say they’re optimistic the program will be operational by 2018.

Today’s announcement came just days after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reportedly asked Congress for permission to prosecute providers of medical marijuana. Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat who signed the state’s landmark medical cannabis bill, wrote a letter to Sessions, urging him to protect the rights of states to pass medical marijuana laws.

Here’s a list of the companies that applied for the grower/ processor licenses in southeastern Pennsylvania, though the Department of Health released no details on the companies; they’re only providing identifying information about companies that won a license. (Our personal favorite names? “Good Times” and “Hippocratic Growth.”)

  • Winner: Prime Wellness of Pennsylvania
  • Winner: Franklin Labs
  • MedGarden
  • Caring Farms, Inc.
  • M3C Agriculture
  • Good Times
  • Franklin BioScience — Penn
  • KEEN MEDS
  • Black Lab Botanicals
  • Hippocratic Growth
  • PennStar Medical
  • PalliaTech PA
  • Aries Therapeutics
  • Snider Health
  • Holistic Farms
  • Kind Medicinal Curatives
  • Healing II
  • DocHouse
  • CAPS PRODUCTION
  • Penn’s Greens
  • TheraBloom, Inc.
  • Kai CannaPharm I
  • Pennsylvania Grown Medicine
  • Bunker Botanicals
  • KSEP
  • PharmaCann Penn
  • Keystone Compassion Center
  • LivFree Pennsylvania Partners
  • PA Health & Wellness
  • Bucks Research and Growth Group
  • Agronomed Pharmaceuticals
  • KWT Industrial Growths
  • ADVANCED GROW LABS PA
  • The SENTEL Group
  • Laso Therapeutics
  • Sage Biotech PA
  • Lancaster Wellness Consultants
  • Vessel Life Science
  • Elemental Health Group
  • Clean Cannabis
  • Surterra Pennsylvania
  • RISE LABS
  • AgroPharm Inc.
  • Bluestone Biomedical
  • The Herbal Care Association
  • Red Lotus Medicinals

The state Department of Health hasn’t yet announced the 10 dispensary licenses that will be issued in southeastern Pennsylvania, though dozens of companies — with names like 420 Nature’s Root, Mary Jane’s Closet and Classic Nails & Spa — have applied.