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In Lawrence County, a startup prepares to grow legal medical marijuana


One hundred feet below pure limestone in Lawrence County, Thomas Perko and Russ Cersosimo Jr. are preparing to grow medical marijuana for the Pennsylvania market. 

The site is highly secure, pest-free and can be scaled to the equivalent of more than 22 acres.

Now the co-founders of Keystone Organic Farms just have to wait for Pennsylvania to legalize medical cannabis — which Perko says is more likely than ever.

“We started reaching out to various stakeholders in the Commonwealth of PA when language of a bill had a chance of both bipartisan and bicameral support,” he says. “Our politicians have done some serious research since…2014. Education is powerful and we believe that the tipping point has been reached. The past year has given them time to educate themselves and it has really paid off. They are now fully aware that this is something that heals people and that there is now proven research behind it, not just anecdotal evidence.”

Once enacted, Pennsylvania can learn from the experience of 23 states and the District of Columbia in fast and efficient implementation. The subterranean farm can be operational within 90 days of licensure.

For now, Keystone is actively gearing up. The company is working with other Pennsylvania companies to perfect the necessary LED lighting technology and custom compound sustainable soil solutions.

“Our initial feasibility analysis included architects and engineers for space-program requirement planning, as well as a sharp focus on all of the integrated systems and design to take into consideration when planning for mid- and long-term scalability,” adds Perko.

A lot will depend on the specifics of any final bill, but Perko anticipates that Keystone can raise somewhere between $10 and $15 million in capital; create 25 to 45 jobs in growing, processing and dispensing; and serve as many as 12,500 customers by 2017.

Source: Tom Perko, Keystone Organic Farms
Writer: Elise Vider

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