In Pennsylvania

(Via the Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/18/18)

Big Marijuana is about to become much, much bigger in the state of Pennsylvania.

On Tuesday, the state Department of Health doubled the number of marijuana dispensaries that will be allowed to set up shop in Pennsylvania, awarding 23 new permits to cannabis companies. Each permit will allow a company to operate three retail storefronts. The latest batch of licensing brings the total number of permits to 50. When all the commercial dispensaries are open, 150 marijuana outlets will dot the state.

The latest phase consolidates the hold some of America’s mightiest cannabis companies have on the state.

PharmaCann, which was recently acquired by MedMen (the so-called Tiffany’s of Cannabis) in a blockbuster $682 million deal, added two permits, bringing its total number of retail outlets in the state to nine.

Green Thumb Industries, the Chicago-based cultivator with an expanding national footprint, won four permits during this round. The mammoth chain will add 12 dispensaries to the four it already operates across the Keystone State, said Ben Kovler, GTI’s founder and CEO. The first of its Southeastern Pennsylvania shops, branded Rise Dispensaries, will open in about six months in Chadds Ford, he said.

(On Monday, GTI scored another major win in New Jersey with a permit to build a marijuana growing and dispensary operation in Paterson, Passaic County. It already operates a grow in Danville in central Pennsylvania.)

Kovler said the secret to his company’s success wasn’t a secret at all.

“We do what we say we’re going to do,” Kovler said. “We read the rules, we roll up our sleeves, and do the work. There’s not anything that’s hard to plan for, but it can be very hard to execute.”

The big winner in Pennsylvania’s weed sweepstakes Tuesday was Harvest. The Arizona-based company was awarded six permits. When its three existing Pennsylvania dispensaries are figured in, Harvest will have a grand total of 21 retail marijuana stores scattered across the commonwealth, making it the state’s biggest marijuana dealer.

“Our success, it’s very simple, it lives with our in-house application team. We’ve listened to the community, regulators, and policymakers,” said Ben Kimbro, Harvest’s director of public and strategic affairs.

According to state law, a company can have a maximum of 15 retail cannabis outlets. Harvest cleverly skirted that maximum number by incorporating each of its six permit applicants as separate businesses. Though the corporate personnel, the corporate headquarters, and corporate email addresses are all the same, “each is recognized as a separate entity by the Department of State,” said a Health Department spokesperson. “Permits are awarded to entities, not people.”

Read more here.

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