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Central Penn Biz Journal: Medical cannabis growing facility eyed in downtown York

By David O'Connor 

A team of York-area business and community leaders wants to open a growing/processing facility for medical cannabis in a former tobacco warehouse in downtown York.

Five-Leaf Remedies Inc. is asking York City officials for a special exception to begin cultivating cannabis in the three-floor warehouse building at 213 E. Poplar St., city officials said Wednesday.

Five-Leaf has been formed as a benefit corporation, or a for-profit company that structures nonprofit giving into its bylaws. It plans to invest some $2.5 million to upgrade the former warehouse if it gets approval, a spokeswoman for the project said.

With Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law passed just last April, plenty of businesses are trying to jump in and build growing/processing facilities, Five-Leaf spokeswoman Christina Kauffman said.

Competition for state licenses is expected to be fierce, with only 12 grower/processor licenses initially available statewide.

The downtown York project has 16 investors, Kauffman said.

Five-Leaf at the same time is hoping to open three medical cannabis dispensaries in the York area, Kauffman also said. It is considering several unidentified locations, she said.

Dispensaries will be competing for 27 locations across the state, Pennsylvania aims to have its medical marijuana program up and running by mid-2018, officials have said.

"We all are community- and civic-minded people who have a common goal to improve and revitalize York," said the Spring Garden Township resident, owner of a writing/public relations business and a project investor.

Others involved with the effort, 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 York College’s board of trustees; York attorney Frank Countess; and Robin Rohrbaugh, president and CEO of York’s Community Progress Council.

Leaders of the effort want to give a part of any proceeds to charity, and hope the project, if approved, could bring needed tax money to York City plus "family-sustaining jobs, with benefits," Kauffman continued.

She declined, for now, to estimate how many jobs would be created at the facility.

"We’re not looking to go build in the suburbs, we're looking at re-using a building in downtown York to help the area," added Kauffman, a former managing editor at the York Dispatch newspaper and founder of the firm Word. By Christina Kauffman LLC.

The 35,000-square-foot building, also a former sewing factory, is now used for storage, York City zoning officer Cheryl Rascoe said.

The application will go to the city Planning Commission at its meeting on March 13, then to the city Zoning Hearing Board on March 16, Rascoe said. Both meetings are at 6:30 p.m. at York City Hall, 101 S. George St.

The Zoning Hearing Board has final approval over the special-exception request, Rascoe also said. State approval for the facility would still be needed.

The application from Five-Leaf Remedies is the third for a state-issued medical marijuana permit in the York area in recent months.

Windsor Township denied a request for a processing facility last November from business owners in its community, while Hellam Township supervisors last week approved a similar request from a business venture called Viridis Medicine LLC.

Christina Kauffman