CBD News Pick – Pittsburg Post Gazette
Laurel Green Medical aims to get state approval to supply medical marijuana
Denise Gargasz-Mueller and David Knepshield were checking out a 6.5-acre dirt lot at an Armstrong County industrial park last week, all the while envisioning a future in the cannabis growing industry.
In a matter of months, this bare flat could be the site of one of Pennsylvania’s first legal cannabis growing facilities, the home base of a company that’s already lining up medical marijuana dispensary locations in Sewickley, Cranberry and possibly Mt. Lebanon and the Strip District.
Just a few years ago, these two entrepreneurs would have made an unlikely pairing:
Mr. Knepshield is the former CEO of Ford City-based Klingensmith Healthcare, a home medical equipment supply company, while Ms. Gargasz-Mueller, who comes from a farming family, has spent the last four years lobbying to get medical marijuana legalized in Pennsylvania.
With legalization now on the books and the first dispensaries due to open in 2018, their partnership “brings all the right ingredients together,” she said.
Their fledgling company, Laurel Green Medical, has already done a lot of things right — meeting with local officials to line up community support, bringing legal and scientific specialists onboard, and setting out a detailed business plan for attracting investors.
The company is applying for one of the five state-allowed “seed-to-sell” licenses that would allow the partners to grow, process and dispense. They expect to find out if their application is approved around March of next year.
Their goal is simple, said Ms. Gargasz-Mueller: To provide high-quality medical cannabis in a safe, compassionate and discreet environment.
But they also know that while the medical marijuana industry has seen explosive growth the past five years, lurking in the background is a federal law that still considers their product illegal.
So far, Mr. Knepshield said, no major banks here want to touch the medical marijuana business, even though federal officials have indicated they will leave it to state and local agencies to enforce their own narcotics laws.
“Any bank that is federally regulated will not have anything to do with this. It’s not illegal for them to do it. They just don’t feel comfortable with it yet.”
Diane Czarkowski, who with husband Jay started one of the first cannabis dispensaries and cultivation operations in Colorado in 2009, said that’s not uncommon.
“We went through eight banks, but we did finally find one that realized they could get some new business by addressing this industry,” said Mrs. Czarkowski, who has since left the dispensary business and now offers consulting services for cannabis startup businesses through the couple’s company, Canna Advisors.
Laurel Green hopes to work with smaller, state-chartered banks and credit unions to the extent they can; to the extent they can’t, this will be a cash business handling millions of dollars. So, yes, security will be a priority.
“This place will be Fort Knox,” promised Mr. Knepshield.
Like other states that have recently legalized medical marijuana such as New York, New Jersey and Maryland, Pennsylvania is going to require applicants to show they have the financial wherewithal to make a go of it.
Just to apply for the license to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana, Laurel Green Medical has to produce a non-refundable $10,000 payment. The company has to put down another $200,000, which is refundable if the application is denied, for the license. And the partners must demonstrate they have the capital backing to pull the whole thing off, including documentation they have another $500,000 in the bank and another $2 million in assets.
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