Friday, February 24, 2017

Pennsylvania-based Medical Marijuana Grow Facility Hopes to Take Root in Lower Pottsgrove Bunker

Photos by Evan Brandt
Bunker Botanicals wants to establish a medical marijuana grow facility 20 feet underground in this Cold War bunker off Porter Road.

The latest medical marijuana grow facility to make headlines this week wants to truly be an underground operation.

Last night, the Lower Pottsgrove Township Commissioners voted 3-1 to send a letter of support to the state for a proposal to establish a facility in a Cold War-era bunker 20 feet beneath the surface of the ground.

Originally built by the phone company to withstand a nuclear attack, the bunker was once full of what is now vintage equipment that would have allowed vital communications to continue after a nuclear attack.

It has since become an "attractive nuisance," a place for teens to hang out and a canvas for local graffiti artists, said Commissioner Ray Lopez.
Geoff Whaling address the Lower Pottsgrove Commissioners

But Robert Basile and Geoff Whaling would like to transform it into a 50,000 square-foot underground grow facility for Pennsylvania's newly legalized medical marijuana.

Basile, who owns at least one nursing home, said he became interested in medical marijuana because of the relief it offers several senior-related ailments, such as dementia.

Geoff Whaling, who would managed the facility, has spent much of his energy in previous years advocating for the passage of a medical cannabis law in Pennsylvania and said he is pleased that the 17 medical conditions it is authorized to treat is the largest number of any state that has legalized marijuana.

"One of the things you have to remember is we're making medicine," Whaling told the commissioners. "There is a great demand for this in Pennsylvania."

But its unclear how great the demand will be since patients will have to be "qualified" to receive a prescription from doctors, who are also just getting up to speed on the use of the cannabis products as medicine.

Whaling's initial estimate is between 65,000 to 120,000 patients statewide as things get up and running.

Pennsylvania's law allows no plant material to be distributed under its law "so you won't see bags of marijuana like you do in Colorado," said Whaling.

Rather, all Pennsylvania's products will be in the form of pills, ointments,
Whaling outlines the specifics of the proposed underground 
medical marijuana grow facility for the commissioners.
tinctures and other medicinal products. That's what will leave the grow facility in an unmarked black van less than once a day, Whaling told the commissioners.

As for security, being underground certainly limits access, but there will also be a fence and two full-time security guards, said Whaling.

The facility will initially employ six people at first and eventually employ up to 15 when the space in the bunkers is fully utilized, he said.

"When I first heard about it, I thought it was going to be like a smoky opium den," said Lopez, who said he has since visited the facility and been educated about the operation.

"It's more like if Merck was making an application," he said mentioning the Montgomery County-based pharmaceutical giant.

The facility "would be a real win-win for the township's tax base and for the company," Lopez said.

But not everyone was convinced.

Fire Marshal Lew Babel noted there is only one fire exit.
The commissioners accept a $2,500 donation from
the Pottsgrove Soccer Association for a new lawn mower.

That, plus not having enough information about security, convinced Commissioners Vice Chairman Stephen Klotz.

"I'm not going to debate medical marijuana," said Klotz. "I don't agree with it, but that's not why I'm voting no on this motion."

That issue, plus a $2,500 donation from the Pottsgrove Soccer Association to help with the purchase of a new lawn mower for the township, were the primary issues of the night.

So here are the Tweets:


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