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A networking bash for the medical marijuana industryPennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society on Thursday night hosted its first midstate social

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Will big businesses from out of state move in and dominate Pennsylvania's medical marijuana marketplace?

How will the industry keep prices below what marijuana costs in the black market, when the financial investment to grow, process or dispense medical marijuana legally will be in the millions?

Questions about big business and a patient-affordable program are on the minds of many who want to invest in a cannabis-related business here in the commonwealth.

Thursday night in Harrisburg an estimated 100 people gathered for a social networking event hosted by the Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society.

The society aims to educate and lead interested parties in the right direction by connecting people who want to get involved in the industry. The nonprofit is led by a team of attorneys, business consultants and other professionals.

The event in Harrisburg was the first networking event the society has hosted since April 17, when Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill legalizing the use of the medical marijuana.

Patrick Nightingale, the executive director of the society, welcomed everyone. He took a moment to pay respect to all the work that led to the bill’s passage.

“It’s almost incomprehensible that we stand on the cusp of this marketplace in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Nightingale said.  

Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 3, is now known as Act 16. The law will take effect on May 17 and the process of creating a program will begin.

“This is the first social networking event post bill signing,” Nightingale said. “The attendance speaks for itself.”  

Pa. professionals ready to invest

Jennifer Bergstresser, an attendee, has already established an LLC in preparation for applying for what is called a vertical license.

A vertical license would allow her Lehigh Valley-based company, Keystone Health Solutions LLC, to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana.

“We’re working with a lot of what-if’s," Bergstresser said.

Despite the uncertainties, hopes for a prosperous cannabis industry in the state are high, and the excitement at the event was intense.

People drove from as far away as Pittsburgh to attend the social, and there were a wide variety of people there.

Among those in business attire were some dressed more casually.

With the scent of marijuana on their clothes, they wanted to know how to go about legally growing cannabis on their land, and some even offered their expertise.

Many people from the health care industry – pharmacists, nurses and physicians – came because they’re interested in being part of a medical marijuana team.

A health care professional of some kind will likely be a required team member in order to operate a medical marijuana business. Specifics are unknown at this time, as the Pennsylvania Department of Health is working on regulations.

A Philadelphia entrepreneur, Noam Kugelmass, came to the event because he’s interested in investing in a startup medical marijuana business. He voiced his concerns about big business from out of state taking over the territory, as the bill has no residency requirement.

“The feeling I get is that a lot of the businesses that will emerge here are probably not people in this room,” Kugelmass said.  

A Sullivan County couple, who chose to remain anonymous, came to the event because they’re worried about how long it will take for people to have access to medicine in their small town.

They were interested in getting involved somehow, because they felt a medical marijuana business could really help bring jobs to their struggling community.

Overall, the message last night was clear – Pennsylvania professionals are ready to invest in the medical marijuana industry.

“I realize the potential this medicine has for patients I deal with every day,” said a physical therapy doctor from Philadelphia who wished to remain anonymous.

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