Medical marijuana may be Pa.’s next big business

Medical marijuana might seem like a cottage industry, but with Pennsylvania the nation’s sixth-largest potential market, it’s more likely to be big business.

Think guys in suits, or maybe lab coats, not dreadlocks and striped baja hoodies.

“I’ve heard estimates that the investment has to be $5 million to $10 million to be a grower-processor,” said Dan Clearfield, a Harrisburg attorney who specializes in regulated substances. “This is not a small-business operation.”

It won’t happen overnight, either. It could be anywhere from 18 months to two years before Pennsylvania residents seeking to treat their medical conditions with cannabis will be able to walk into a dispensary and slap a prescription on the counter.

The state Department of Health has six months to develop regulations that will set up initial ground rules for the grower-processors who produce the marijuana, the retailers who fill prescriptions and the doctors who get licensed to prescribe it.

Then the state will have to draw up a request for proposals and accept applications for a limited number of permits available for each segment of the industry. and evaluate them. The winners will need several months to grow and process their first crops.

At least one industry player, Minneapolis-based Vireo Health, which also operates in New York state, is actively scouting grower/​processor sites in the Lehigh Valley, said CEO Kyle Kingsley.

“It is at the top of our list as a potential location,” Dr. Kingsley said.

“This type of law is going to draw the highest-functioning, the most professional groups,” Dr. Kingsley said. “We are a group of physicians and scientists and horticulturalists. We have actually been raising funds and had boots on the ground in Pennsylvania for the last year or so.”

It’s a rapidly growing industry that has investors salivating.

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