65,000-square-foot medical marijuana production facility to open soon in Perry County

Lost for sale sign
A sign at the newly renamed Perry Innovation Park in Penn Twp. The business park will be the site of a new medical marijuana production facility. (Photo by Jim Ryan, Perry County Times)

A Lower Paxton Township company will soon begin growing medical marijuana at a new facility in Perry County.

PA Options for Wellness has passed the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s operational inspection and is now eligible to begin growing and processing at its 65,000-square-foot facility at 50 Perry Ave. in the Perry Innovation Park in Penn Township near Duncannon, which is also home to Mutzabaugh’s Family Market, Members 1st Federal Credit Union, Rite Aid and others.

The facility includes grow rooms, processing and manufacturing space, offices and laboratory space.

The facility is still under construction but the company said it will begin growing medical marijuana in the next month and will employ between 15 to 20 people and will be at full capacity next year when it expects to employ more than 50 people.

The new facility has included years of planning. PA Options for Wellness held a public meeting to outline its proposal for the facility in January 2017, according to the Perry County Times. The company was awarded a provisional permit in June of last year. The company broke ground on the facility in October, according to the paper.

ROOM TO GROW — PA Options for Wellness, a medical marijuana company, broke ground Oct. 16 on its new facility in Penn Twp. Pictured are Craig Dussinger of CSD Construction, Perry County Chamber of Commerce President Rich Pluta, Perry Innovation Park owner Bill Roberts, PA Options CEO Thomas Trite, PA Options Chief Strategy Officer Sonya Weigle, Audra Hunter of Perry County Economic Development Corp. (former park owners), county Commissioner Paul Rudy, and Frank Campbell of the Perry County Economic Development Authority. (Photo by Jim Ryan, Perry County Times)

PA Options for Wellness was founded by Thomas Trite in 2014 and opened its first medical marijuana dispensary under the name Vytal Options in the same building as its headquarters at 4711 Queen Avenue in Lower Paxton Township last month and plans to open its next location at 39 E. Chestnut Street in Lancaster next month. The company plans to open another four medical marijuana dispensaries across the state. The company also sells its products at www.vytaloptions.com.

The company announced last year that it is collaborating with Penn State. The university – whose College of Medicine and affiliated Milton S. Hershey Medical Center are an state-approved academic clinical research center – and PA Options for Wellness – a state-approved clinical registrant – have signed a 10-year research agreement. State-approved clinical registrants are licensed to grow, process and dispense marijuana for research and medical treatment purposes.

PA Options for Wellness will provide funding to Penn State over 10 years, a significant portion of which will go to the College of Medicine to study health outcomes-based research and pre-clinical studies on the potential benefits of cannabinoids and medical marijuana. The College of Medicine will assist PA Options for Wellness determine which types of marijuana extracts are optimal for various conditions. The research work will focus on pain management and anti-cancer activity initially.

At the end of April, the state’s first clinical registrant, MLH Explorations LLC was operationalized. MLH Explorations is partnering with the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University. In June, the medical marijuana research program operationalized its second and third clinical registrants, Organic Remedies Inc. partnered with the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and PA Options for Wellness Inc. partners with Penn State College of Medicine.

“Operationalizing the clinical registrants partnered with three of our academic clinical research centers is essential to providing physicians with more evidence-based research to make clinical decisions for their patients,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said in a press release earlier this month. “This is the cornerstone of our program and the key to our clinically-based, patient-focused program for those suffering with cancer, PTSD and other serious medical conditions.”

Four other clinical registrants were named in February but have not been operationalized yet: Laurel Harvest Labs LLC contracted with Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, Philadelphia; CannTech PA LLC contracted with Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, Erie; Organic Remedies Inc. contracted with Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Philadelphia and Curaleaf PA LLC contracted with The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

There are nearly 356,000 patients and caregivers that have registered for the the state’s medical marijuana program. There are currently 87 operational dispensaries in the state. More than 14 million products have been sold since the start of the program, and total sales within the program are over $1 billion, which includes sales by the grower/processors to the dispensaries, and sales by the dispensaries to patients and caregivers. To date, there are 26 grower/processors deemed operational in Pennsylvania, and 15 of those are actively shipping to dispensaries. Close to 1,400 physicians have been approved as practitioners for the program.

Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana in 2016, allowing it to be used to treat 17 medical conditions. Last year the list grew to include 23 conditions. Someone with one of the conditions must have it certified by a doctor who is state-approved. Then they can obtain a card enabling them to buy medical marijuana at a medical marijuana dispensary.