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Applying to grow, dispense medical marijuana in Pa. will cost you

Ben Schmitt
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REUTERS
Marijuana plants for sale are displayed at the medical marijuana farmers market at the California Heritage Market in Los Angeles, Calif., on July 11, 2014. Medical marijuana proponents will converge at Pittsburgh's David L. Lawrence Convention Center for a two-day expo April 21-22, 2017.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health on Tuesday released applications for potential medical marijuana growers and dispensaries.

Interested parties can download the applications from the DOH website and apply between Feb. 20 and March 20.

It won’t be cheap.

Growers will be required to submit a nonrefundable $10,000 application fee; a $200,000 permit fee, which is refundable if the permit is not granted; and proof of $2 million in capital.

Dispensaries will have to pay a nonrefundable $5,000 application fee; a $30,000 permit fee, which is refundable if the permit is not granted; and proof of $150,000 in capital.

“This is an important step forward in getting this valuable medication to patients who desperately need it,” DOH Secretary Karen Murphy said. “We’ve developed a thorough application that ensures the operators of medical marijuana grower/processor and dispensary facilities will meet our strict guidelines. Our goal is to deliver medication safely and responsibly, and this application will help us do just that.”

During a media briefing Tuesday, John Collins, director of the state’s Office of Medical Marijuana, told reporters the program remains on schedule to be up and running by mid-2018. He said the state anticipates about 900 individuals and corporations will apply.

A DOH selection committee will evaluate applicants on 30 criteria. Diversity and community impact will play a large role, according to the application.

“An applicant shall include with its application a diversity plan that promotes and ensures the involvement of diverse participants and diverse groups in ownership, management, employment and contracting opportunities,” the application reads, including individuals from “diverse racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds and communities; women; veterans and individuals with disabilities.”

Pittsburgh attorney Patrick Nightingale, executive director of the Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society, said the application fees appear to be high compared to other states that have legalized medical marijuana.

“Very high, especially for the grower,” he said.

Collins said he did not know how the fees compared to other states.

Pennsylvania plans to issue 27 dispensary permits during the first phase of the program’s rollout. State law authorizes up to 50 dispensary permits, which translates to 150 dispensaries when including secondary locations.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed the medical marijuana program into law in April.

The Health Department is regulating the program, which forbids smoking marijuana in dry leaf form. Dispensaries are allowed to sell equipment, such as vaping devices for liquid forms, to administer medical marijuana. Under state law, patients — after consulting with doctors — can apply for a state-issued medical marijuana card if a doctor certifies that they have one of 17 qualified medical conditions, including epilepsy, cancer, multiple sclerosis and seizure disorders.

In the interim, the state has approved 155 “safe harbor” applications for patients. Safe harbor allows caregivers to administer medical marijuana obtained from outside Pennsylvania to minors in their care.

In other medical marijuana news, DOH officials said they are not participating in a medical marijuana conference April 21-22 in Pittsburgh. Compassionate Certification Centers, a Pittsburgh-based medical marijuana consulting and marketing company that organized the conference, listed the DOH as participants on its website.

On Tuesday, DOH spokeswoman April Hutcheson said miscommunication caused the error.

“We are no longer listed on their site as a potential speaker,” she said.

Compassionate Certification Centers spokeswoman Neko Catanzaro confirmed that the DOH has been removed from its promotional literature.

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991 or [email protected].

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