Medical marijuana grower OK'd to begin operations in Berks

Other permit-holder in final stages of inspection

READING, Pa. - The Pennsylvania Department of Health has given eight medical marijuana growers and processors, including one of two in Berks County, the go-ahead to begin their operations.

Gov. Tom Wolf announced Wednesday that 10,135 patients have registered to participate in the state's medical marijuana program, with 1,188 certified by a physician to take part.

"Patients have started to receive their medical marijuana identification cards, bringing us one step closer to getting medication to patients in the next four months," Wolf said. "Our grower/processors are well underway, and our dispensaries are approaching the point where they will be ready to open their doors."

The state awarded in June two of its 12 medical marijuana growing permits, as well as two dispensary permits, to entities that plan to set up shop in Berks County.

Franklin Labs, located in the former Pepsi plant on Centre Avenue in Reading, has been approved to begin operations, despite the company announcing in October that it was looking to sell its license and focus solely on researching medical marijuana.

The other Berks permit-holder, Pennsylvania Prime Wellness, is one of four medical marijuana growers/processors currently in the final stages of the inspection process, officials said.

"We have been working with them to make sure they are meeting all of the standards set out by the regulations and their facilities are safe and secure," said Dr. Rachel Levine, the state's physician general and acting health secretary. "At this time, we do not foresee any issues with the remaining facilities that would prevent them from becoming operational."

In order to become operational, the growers/processors had to undergo several inspections by the state health department. The facilities also are fully integrated with the seed-to-sale tracking system, allowing them to accept seeds and clones to grow medical marijuana.

Meantime, physicians continue to register to participate in the program. To date, 550 have registered and of those, nearly 250 have completed the training to become certified practitioners.

"Physicians play a critical role in this medically-focused program," Levine said. "The response has been encouraging from the medical community as more doctors are becoming educated on how medical marijuana can help their patients."

As of December 21, three Berks County physicians have been approved to certify patients to participate in the medical marijuana program. They are Dr. Antonio Sotomayor in Reading, Dr. Stanford Feinberg in Wyomissing, and Dr. William Clements, in Wernersville.

The program, expected to be fully implemented in 2018, will offer medical marijuana to patients who are residents of Pennsylvania and under a practitioner's care for the treatment of a serious medical condition, as defined by the state's medical marijuana law.

Questions about the program can be emailed to Information can also be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Health's website.

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