Archive

Hempfield restaurant owner gets his ‘ducks in a row’ to grow medical marijuana | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

Hempfield restaurant owner gets his ‘ducks in a row’ to grow medical marijuana

gtrmedpot052716
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Rodney Yemc hopes to open a medical marijuana growing operation in this warehouse in Hempfield.
gtrmedpot2052716
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
A former warehouse in Hempfield Township in which Rodney Yemc hopes to open a medical marijuana growing operation.

Rodney Yemc’s passion for medical marijuana is palpable.

The Hempfield restaurant owner said he wakes up every morning thinking about how he’ll advance his plans to grow medical marijuana and, he hopes, dispense it to the public.

Yemc is hoping to get in on the ground floor of the industry that was legalized last month when Gov. Tom Wolf signed the Medical Marijuana Act into law.

Department of Health officials are in the early stages of developing the regulations to implement the law. Over the next few months, officials will be evaluating how to allocate licenses based on need and population.

The department can initially issue 25 grower licenses, 50 to dispense the drug and five to do both.

“We know that’s a very competitive situation,” Yemc said.

The law allows patients — with their doctor’s approval — to purchase marijuana to treat 17 conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and seizures that can’t be controlled by treatment.

Patients can buy the drug in the form of a pill, oil, gel, cream or liquid that can be vaporized and inhaled. They will not be able to smoke it.

Yemc doesn’t expect to apply for a license until about February, but he said he’s working hard to prepare for the rigorous licensing process.

“Our ducks are in a row. We’re not scrambling,” he said.

He started researching the marijuana growing process two years ago, long before medical marijuana was legalized here.

He made several trips to Colorado, where marijuana is legal for medicinal and recreational use, to learn about every aspect of the business.

He’s hired a team of lawyers and lobbyists and collected start-up cash from a group of investors, whom he declined to name, because it costs $10,000 just to apply for a license and another $200,000 if he’s granted one, according to the Health Department.

Yemc leased a 25,000-square-foot warehouse space on Arona Road in Hempfield, a few miles from his eatery, Rodney’s Restaurant, where he initially hopes to grow 3,000 plants. The building has enough space that he could expand into an adjacent room and grow another 6,000 to 8,000 plants, he said.

Yemc, 50, said he’ll be the president of PA Cultivation Group, the company he formed to run the operation.

“I’ll probably be president of watering and taking care of the plants, too,” he joked. “We know this is hard work and long hours.”

Other prospective growers are making similar preparations in anticipation of applying for a license.

Thomas Perko, 32, of Richland, managing partner of Keystone Organic Farms, said he’s spent a significant amount of time looking at what makes growers successful in other states.

He said his focus was on finding the right location — a former underground limestone mine in Wampum, Lawrence County — that he believes will make for a secure, energy-efficient growing location.

He said the numerous lamps required for large-scale growing throw off “a tremendous amount of heat.”

Yemc said he’s budgeting about $15,000 per month for electricity when his operation is up and running.

Perko said he hopes to get both a growing and dispensary license. While he’s waiting for the application period to open, he said, his team is looking to build research partnerships with universities to study the plants and extractions as they’re made.

Kari Andren is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-850-2856 or [email protected].

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.