A pay-to-play system has developed between state-licensed cannabis operators and municipal governments across the country for local zoning. The same model has quickly materialized in Pennsylvania, and now one town has gone too far.
Muhlenberg Township in Berks County was trying to squeeze a dispensary — Franklin Bioscience LLC — for 5 percent of its annual profits.
The issue was revealed when the Pennsylvania Department of Health released a letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer from medical-marijuana program director John Collins to the company’s CEO, Andrew Weiss, allowing the dispensary to relocate after getting pressured for the cash. Collins wrote:
“If Franklin Bioscience is required to pay the host benefit fee, Franklin Bioscience’s financial position may be negatively impacted, which may, in turn, result in inflated medical marijuana prices for patients.”
Towns and cities usually offer huge tax breaks and pro-business incentives to lure jobs. Quite the opposite is happening for the cannabis oil operators. But far from being victims, the permit applicants helped create the problem: In the early rush for approval letters and favorable zoning, they made a wide range of promises to local officials.
Ryan Briggs at City and State Pa uncovered dozens of letters supporting deep-pocketed medical marijuana applicants that the Department of Health had failed to make public. Glowing recommendations for prospective cultivators and dispensers were sent by state legislators and county officials from both parties, on government letterhead. Various niceties about applicants were also sent in from universities, private businesses, and even a school district superintendent.
But any promises would only come true if the applicants were winners.
An interesting document unearthed by Briggs also involved Franklin Bioscience LLC. Penned by Delaware Valley University on behalf of Franklin’s failed grower/processor application in Doylestown, the communication included a “Letter of Collaboration.”