Medical marijuana facility coming to Duncannon area

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)

After two years, a proposed medical marijuana facility will be coming to the Duncannon area after PA Options for Wellness received a research license from the state in conjunction with the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. And the company received permission to start the project.

“We want to locate in the Duncannon business park,” John Spagnola, PA Options’ chief operating officer, said June 26 at the Penn Twp. supervisors meeting.

In 2017, PA Options for Wellness received approval of a development plan for the facility from the township, but without a state license in the initial rounds of medical marijuana permitting, the approval expired. That means the company is resubmitting its plans this week for planning commission and supervisors approval in July.

Craig Raynor of Pennoni Associates, PA Options’ engineer, said they would submit the same plans as in 2017 by June 28 to get them before the township at the coming meetings. Nothing has changed with the plans. The company wants to get construction under way as soon as possible with a goal to have the facility operational in six months, he said.

To do that, they asked the township to let the company begin site work at the location in the newly named Perry Innovation Park, the business park on Business Campus Way. That was the planned location for the facility in 2017. The park was transferred to Perry County developer Bill Roberts last year from the Perry County Economic Development Corp. Roberts assumed PCEDC’s debt in a deal with the state.

“I think it’s going to be a good thing for our community, county and our state,” Roberts said at the township meeting.

Roberts’ company, IBS Development, has been involved with PA Options since 2017 to build the facility that will be a medical marijuana grow operation and industrial production facility for state-approved products.

The supervisors voted 2-1 to allow PA Options to begin site work, something that isn’t normally allowed of new developments before plan approvals. But the plan’s erosion and sedimentation permit through he Perry County Conservation District is good for two more years, and it has a past approval under its belt.

The township is requiring a legal agreement saying the site work is at the company’s own risk and wouldn’t guarantee development plan approval if plans needed to change. It also prevents the company from starting construction until it has approvals.

“We’re not going to let the fact we let you start be the elbow to the back of he head to approve the building plan,” township Solicitor Mark Allshouse said.

Supervisor Henry Holman III dissented in the vote saying companies shouldn’t be allowed to start a project without plan approvals, especially if a regular homeowner can’t do that.

“I think it should be done the proper way,” Holman said. “Why should a regular taxpayer be treated any different than you?”

Supervisors Jesse Boyer and Joe Landis didn’t have a problem with the site work.

“It’s not like this has come up just this morning,” Boyer said.

Landis agreed saying he wanted to see something developed in the long-vacant and troubled business park.

“I think it will benefit the entire community,” he said.

The nearly 90,000 square-foot facility is expected to add more than 80 jobs once it’s opened.

That number could increase substantially said Tzuo-Zen Lee, PA Options’ director of operations. Not only is there the production facility being planned now, but the company also can have up to six medical marijuana dispensaries as part of its license. It has locked in one location for Harrisburg and one for Lancaster. It can have one more in the south central region and three others around the state. That wasn’t possible under the previous license it was seeking, he said.

“We’re trying to help people who are falling through the cracks right now, places where traditional medicine has failed,” said Lee, who is a pharmacist and a chemical engineer.

The research partnership with Penn State College of Medicine has a lot to do with that, said Spagnola, also a pharmacist. There’s evidence marijuana has therapeutic benefits and helps with certain diseases. It requires a lot more research which will be done with patients through the partnership.

“It’s all anecdotal now,” Spagnola said. “We’re going to document it.”