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Pennsylvania will gain about $7.9 million from marijuana permit applicants this year.
Sean Heisey, York Daily Record

What do two retired NFL players and a former lieutenant governor have in common? They all hope to transform marijuana into medicine in central Pennsylvania.

With medical cannabis now legal in PA, there’s big money at stake for the companies that win one of the 39 permits to grow or sell cannabis. But with more than 500 applicants, there’s a lot of competition.

Competitors range from local startups Viridis Medicine and Five Leaf Remedies to well-established companies that already grow marijuana in states such as New Hampshire and New York.

More: Medical marijuana: Who gets the money?

Here are some of those who hope to get involved:

NFL to CEO 

Eugene Monroe (Photo: Mitch Stringer, USA TODAY Sports)

Eugene Monroe played in the NFL from 2009 through 2016 with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Baltimore Ravens. Like many football players, the left tackle had his share of injuries — and pain — and has become an outspoken advocate for the NFL to legalize medical marijuana as an alternative to opiates.

Now Monroe plans to head up Green Thumb Industries Pennsylvania, which has applied for a permit to grow marijuana in the area.

More: Eugene Monroe remains hopeful NFL will change rules over use of medical marijuana 

Monroe joined the Chicago-based company last November, the company’s website states. He is listed as co-CEO of the Pennsylvania program. Monroe could not be reached for comment.

Well-connected consultants 

Monroe isn’t the only pro football player hoping to secure a permit. A Syracuse, New York-based company, Terradiol, has an advisory board that includes Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Floyd Little.

The board also includes Mark Singel, a former Pennsylvania lieutenant governor. Singel served under Gov. Bob Casey from 1987 to 1995 and was acting governor while Casey recovered from an illness. Singel runs a Harrisburg-based consulting firm called The Winter Group.

Should the company get a licence, Singel would serve on its advisory board. “This is a solid firm with the highest professional standards,” he said in an email. “They will be a strong economic asset to the region in addition to providing valuable medicines to patients throughout Pennsylvania.”

More: Race is on for marijuana permits in York County

Pennsylvania Department of Health Medical Marijuana Regions (Photo: www.health.pa.gov)

 

Experienced growers

Sanctuary Medicinals was the first company to cultivate medical cannabis in New Hampshire, said CEO Jason Sidman. Now the company hopes to open a grower/processor facility in Lebanon County.

Sidman said his company is excited that Pennsylvania has opted for a “flowerless” cannabis policy, meaning that marijuana must be converted from its plant form before it can be sold. This helps to ensure that the cannabis products are used only for medical purposes.

The challenge for the companies that win the permits will be to meet Pennsylvania’s aggressive deadline on getting that first crop to harvest, Sidman said. It takes about 14 weeks to cultivate a crop from seeds.

Sanctuary has already been “extracting” medicine from cannabis at its Rochester, New Hampshire, facility, Sidman said. That positions the company well to meet that deadline.

“The experienced companies are the best candidates to roll out a successful program,” he said. “The best will rise to the top.”

Homegrown hopefuls

At least two York-based companies want to open grow operations in York County.

Viridis Medicine has secured permits to build a facility in Hellam Township. The company’s partners include Jeff Geisel, who is co-president of Henry’s Seafood in Hellam Township, as well as Fulton Financial Corp. executive George Hodges, who once ran the Wolf Organization with Gov. Tom Wolf. The group has paired up with Colorado-based consultant Nic Easley to launch the project.

More: Hellam marijuana facility proposed by former Wolf partner 

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Another company, Five-Leaf Remedies, intends to build its facility in the city of York and almost everyone working to launch the company has York roots.

The group hopes to turn the 35,000-square-foot East Prospect Street building — a former tobacco-processing facility — into a grower/processor facility.

Five-Leaf has filed as a “benefit corporation,” which means that it plans to return some of its profits to local organizations, spokeswoman Christina Kauffman said. Benefit corporation status does not make it tax-exempt.

About 21 locals are involved in the project, including:

  • Oziel Bones, owner of Mi Caldero restaurant
  • Bobby Simpson, CEO of Crispus Attucks Association
  • Frank Dittenhafer II, a York architect
  • Jonathan Spanos, co-owner of The Paddock restaurant in Springettsbury Township.

The group has partnered with Jim Parco, founder of Colorado-based cannabis retailer Mesa Organics.

Kauffman said she remains hopeful about securing a permit, despite the long list of competitors.

“Seeing this list just sort of affirms what we’d thought from the beginning,” Kauffman said. “We’re really approaching this from a unique, locally-centered position.”

For a full list of companies that have applied for permits in Southcentral Pennsylvania, click here. 

More: More than 30 marijuana permit applications in Southcentral Pennsylvania

Business reporter Gary Haber contributed to this report. 

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