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Medical marijuana: Would-be growers, processors should have shovels ready

People who want to apply for a permit to grow or process medical marijuana in Pennsylvania better have design plans drawn and shovels in the ground when they submit their applications to the state.

That was the message from York-based Core Design Group, an architectural and engineering firm that sent a representative to speak at a medical marijuana networking event in Harrisburg hosted by the Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society.

Growers and processors have six months to begin operations after they they receive approval from the state, said Sarah Werner, business development manager for Core Design.

That means growers and processors have six months to either renovate an existing building or construct a facility from the ground up, and make sure that it meets state standards.

“These are things that should seriously be considered right now,” Werner said. “The state is taking this very seriously, so the more details you have in your application, the better.”

Core Design Group is branching out to include the design and engineering of medical marijuana facilities after a group of employees took training in Colorado. The company recently landed its first design project for a growing facility approved in Maryland.

The company, which serves Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware, is entering Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana industry through a joint venture with Chambersburg-based Brechbill and Helman Construction Co. Inc.

The companies, like many other industry players, are seeing for the first time this month what the Pennsylvania Department of Health might require of medical marijuana facilities. The department released temporary regulations for growers and processors last week.

“The department is moving in the right direction and without stalling,” Tom Santanna, president of Harrisburg-based Tom Santanna Strategic Consulting and a member of the Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society said at the event.

The marijuana industy, both medical and recreational, is growing rapidly. Combined, it saw a 31 percent increase in sales between 2014 and 2015, according to data from Washington D.C.-based Frontier Financial Group Inc., which studies marijuana trends.

Sales in the recreational marijuana market, known as adult use in the industry, increased 232 percent between 2014 to 2015, making it one of the fastest-growing sectors of the U.S. economy, Frontier analyst John Kagia said on Wednesday.

Just below recreational marijuana for fastest-growing sales is electric vehicles, at 222 percent.

Pennsylvania lawmakers legalized medical marijuana in May, and some are pushing for full legalization.

The legalization of recreational marijuana would lead to expansion of Pennsylvania’s cannabis industry, and it wouldn’t hurt to plan ahead when deciding how big to build your growing facility, Kagia said.

Lenay Ruhl

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