First round of permits issued for Pennsylvania medical marijuana growers

    The director of Pennsylvania’s new medical marijuana program has announced the first round of permit allocations to marijuana growers and processors.

    The 12 businesses chosen were ranked against the state’s scoring rubric, which includes diversity plans, business history, and community impact, among other things.

    The newly licensed companies now have six months to become operational.

    The permitting process was competitive, with over 450 applications. An avenue is in place for businesses to appeal the state if they think they’ve been wrongly passed over.

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    Program director John Collins said even accounting for appeals and potential lawsuits from the businesses that weren’t chosen, he doesn’t think the program will be thrown off track.

    “We remain on track to get medications to patients with serious medical conditions in 2018,” he said.Throughout the process, Collins has faced questions about the program’s transparency. For instance, no specifics have been released on the panel that allocated the permits—something Collins maintains is necessary so the panel’s members aren’t influenced in any way.

    “The evaluation team was made up of inter-agency experts,” Collins said. “I will not go into detail beyond that.”At least one of the chosen companies has a direct connection to the state. Franklin Labs LLC—which won a permit to grow and process in Reading—is chaired by Governor Tom Wolf’s former policy director, John Hanger.

    A spokesman for the governor said there had essentially been a firewall between the medical marijuana program and the governor’s office during the evaluation, and that “the governor and his staff played no role.”

    “Each evaluation committee member signed a confidentiality and a no conflict of interest statement to protect the integrity of the medical marijuana grower/processor permit selection process,” he said. “Moreover, the evaluation committee members were prohibited from corresponding with any outside entity or third party.”

    Collins said the program will announce its 27 picks for distributors by the end of the month. It can also issue up to 13 more grower/processor licenses, but there’s no timeline for that yet.

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