CARMICHAELS – A company that received one of the 12 state permits to grow and process marijuana for the state’s new medical marijuana program should be ready within the next few weeks to begin construction of its first building on property off Thomas Road in Cumberland Township.
AGRiMED Industries of Pa. LLC received final approval Monday night from Cumberland Township Planning Commission for its plan to construct the 16,000 square foot, manufactured steel building on the 61-acre site just north of Nemacolin.
The planning commission granted final approval with one condition: that approval first be received from the state Department of Environmental Protection and township supervisors for a 5,000-gallon, wastewater holding tank that will be used at the site. Township code officer Ann Bargerstock said DEP approval should come in two to three days.
Darin Clay of Cumberland Properties Leasing LLC, which will develop and own the building and lease it to AGRiMED, said he expects his people will be on-site by the end of the week though no earth can be moved until the permit is secured.
Under the state’s program, AGRiMED must have its growing and processing facility in operation by Dec. 20, which is six months from the date the state permit was issued on June 20.
The company’s future plans, contingent on how the market develops for products derived from medical marijuana, eventually calls for construction of an 80,000 square foot growing and processing facility at the Thomas Road site, Clay said.
AGRiMED’s application to grow medical marijuana had received the highest score in the evaluation process used by the state to award the permits, said Stanley Sears, a founding partner of AGRiMED. The state had received 177 applications for the 12 permits.
The company is “very proud” of its efforts, Sears added, and it hopes the project will be a benefit to the local community as well as to people who have health issues and who will be able to use its products.
“We put a lot of time and effort into the application,” Sears said.
Under the state’s medical marijuana program, medical marijuana can be prescribed by a doctor for 17 medical conditions, including multiple sclerosis, severe chronic pain, cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder and intractable seizures.
The medical cannabis can only be dispensed as pills, oils, liquids, topical ointments or in a form administered by an inhaler or nebulizer. It cannot be dispensed in any form to be smoked.
Security had been a big issue with the township supervisors when the company first approached them about the project earlier this year, Bargerstock said.
Sears said the facility will be “super secure.” The building will be surrounded by a fence and have an around the clock security detail, he said. Hawthorne Conley, a former state police lieutenant colonel, is the company’s security director.
Security measures also will be implemented to make sure none of the marijuana or its products will be removed from the facility by employees or visitors, said Bruce Goldman, another AGRiMED founding partner and a former health care administrator.
The first building, which will be constructed by Accelerated Construction Services, will be used to grow about 2,400 marijuana plants, according to Sterling Crockett, AGRiMED managing partner. The plants will be grown in a special soil and watered and fertilized through an automated system.
As part of the project, an eight-inch water line will also be extended to the site from the intersection of Browns Ferry Road. The wastewater holding tank was necessary, Bargerstock explained, because Nemacolin indicated its treatment system lacks the capacity to handle additional waste.
The company initially expects to employ about 20 people at the plant, though as the medical marijuana program ramps up and the facility expands, it could employ more than 60 workers, Sears said.
The property on which the marijuana-growing operation will be constructed had been the proposed site several years ago of a coal waste-fired power plant that was being developed by Wellington Development LLC, a company for which Sears was a principal.
That project never developed. Last year, however, a company, Hill Top Energy, proposed building a 536-megawatt natural gas plant on part of the site. That company is currently seeking permits for the project. The power plant is expected to occupy 41 acres of the 102-acre Wellington site; AGRiMED’s operations will cover the remaining 61 acres.