Entrepreneurs announce plans to apply to open a medical marijuana growing facility in Baltimore

Entrepreneur want to open a medical marijuana growing center in Baltimore.

Two Silver Spring-based entrepreneurs said Monday they hope to open a medical marijuana growing and processing plant in Baltimore.

Healthy Choice Alternative LLC is in the process of applying for one of up to 15 cultivation licenses as well as a processors license from the state under Maryland's medical marijuana program, an attorney for the company said.

Plans call for renovating a vacant 118,000-square-foot building into a growing operation, starting in about 30,000 square feet and expanding to about 100,000 square feet, said attorney Eddie Pounds. He said the company is not disclosing the specific site, which would be in an area zoned for industrial or manufacturing use within the 11th councilmanic district, which runs from Federal Hill through downtown and Mount Vernon north to Reservoir Hill and west to Harlem Park.

"The idea is to combine the growing and processing operations at the same site," Pounds said.

The company said it has been meeting with city officials about the proposal. The operation would bring in at least 100 jobs over three years, starting with about 20, including growers, trimmers, packagers, security guards, human resources managers and accountants, the company said.

Applications for licenses to grow, process and dispense marijuana are due Nov. 6 to the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, which oversees licensing, registration, inspection and testing or the medical marijuana program. Pounds said he believes licensees would have a year to address zoning issues and open their doors.

Healthy Choice was started by Ali Askari, a pharmacist, and John Phillips, a patient advocate and cancer survivor, Pounds said. The state has estimated there are 60,000 patients in Maryland who could use the treatment.

The company expects its growing operation would produce between 200 pounds to 300 pounds of marijuana per month in the first year and 600 to 700 pounds per month in the second year.

Pounds, the former general counsel for the Prince George's County Economic Development Corp., called his client's plans a "promising opportunity to bring high paying jobs and a renewed spirit to an important part of the region that has been through so much."

Susan Yum, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Development Corp., said inquiries have been coming in from people interested in growing, processing or dispensing medical marijuana in the city. She did not have information about specific meetings with Healthy Choice.

"There are more actions that need to happen at the state level before local-level agencies can figure out how to deal with requests like this," she said.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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