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York group drops medical marijuana bid

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Five-Leaf Remedies Inc. had hoped to convert this former warehouse at 213 E. Poplar St. in York into a facility for growing medical marijuana.
Five-Leaf Remedies Inc. had hoped to convert this former warehouse at 213 E. Poplar St. in York into a facility for growing medical marijuana. - (Photo / )

A second time won't be the charm for a group of business and community leaders whose startup company fell short of winning permits to grow and dispense medical marijuana in York.

The leaders of the company, Five-Leaf Remedies Inc., have decided not to apply if and when the state reopens the permitting process, said Christina Kauffman, a spokeswoman for the company.

"It was a difficult decision to make," Kauffman said, noting the time and resources company leaders had put into the effort, including selection of a former factory site in the city.

"We felt that our plans were very carefully considered to have an impact on the community and the state," she said. 

However, she said, state regulators seemed to prefer giving permits to larger out-of-state companies with deeper pockets.

"We don't feel that our model of a startup, even though we feel we bring a lot of diversity and community involvement, that it's just not a model that the state has indicated they want," Kauffman said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health awarded the first round of medical marijuana permits earlier this summer, for both growers and dispensaries.

The agency has the authority to issue more permits, but will determine when to award them once it gets a better idea of where patients are, according to department spokesperson Wesley Culp. Before they can use medical marijuana, patients must register with the state, a process expected to begin in a few weeks, Culp added.

Five-Leaf spent $290,000 applying for permits, Kauffman said. It expects to get back all but $25,000. Checks are expected by the end of September, Kauffman said.

The company's additional costs amount to roughly $80,000, including money for equipment and HVAC work on the building, Kauffman said.

People involved in Five-Leaf as investors and advisers or in other capacities, include: York architect Frank Dittenhafer, a founder of Murphy & Dittenhafer Inc.; Bobby Simpson, CEO of York's Crispus Attucks Association and a member of the York College board of trustees; York attorney Frank Countess; and Robin Rohrbaugh, president and CEO of the York-based Community Progress Council.

Five-Leaf formed as a benefit corporation, meaning its founders intended it to benefit the community, not just owners and investors.

One of the company's partners still owns the former factory in York identified as a growing facility, Kauffman said. 

And the company intends to follow through on its community-minded intentions for now, even if it never cultivates any cannabis: Five-Leaf is planning a neighborhood cleanup event on Aug. 26 and to pass out backpacks stuffed with school supplies for area children, Kauffman said.

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Joel Berg

Joel Berg

Joel Berg is editor of the Central Penn Business Journal. Born in Philadelphia, raised in Northern Virginia and now living in York, he's a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College and the University of Maryland. Have a question or story idea? Email him at jberg@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JoelBYorkPa.

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