CEOs say upcoming Pennsylvania pot industry will be complicated – WJAC Johnstown
ALTOONA — The State Department of Health expects medical marijuana businesses to be in up and running by next year in Pennsylvania, but business owners in California say their counterparts in this state face an uphill battle.
Medical marijuana legalization was signed into law last April, and entrepreneurs have begun to look at central Pennsylvania. as a place to set up shop.
Green Leaf Medical, a Maryland-based operation, has applied for health department permits to open growing and processing facilities in Saxton in Bedford County, and others have applied to start business in DuBois.
Bedford County Development Association President Bette Slayton said she expects the industry to boost the local economy.
“What’s exciting about this industry is that it brings pharmaceutical manufacturing types of jobs to the area, which is a growth industry,” Slayton said.
California’s medical marijuana industry has been growing since 1996, and established CEOs there said with that growth also comes growing pains.
“Every day is an obstacle. It’s difficult to bank. It’s difficult to get a merchant account. There’s always something, even with insurance companies,” said Melanie Kotchey, COO and co-founder of Compassionate Certification Centers.
Marijuana might be legal in some states, but federal law still prohibits its use and distribution. Since banks are federally operated, businesses have to conduct business under the table.
The statutes that allow medical marijuana do not protect anyone involved from federal prosecution, according to the state Department of Health.
“They do everything in cash. They pay their employees in cash. They take wheelbarrows of money and bring trucks up to the IRS and pay their taxes,” said Stuart Titus, the CEO of California-based Medical Marijuana Inc.
In Pennsylvania, business owners who wish to apply for a permit to start out must pay an initial $10,000 non-refundable fee, and then an