Hopeful for opportunity

Hopeful for opportunity

Gabe Perlow stands at the McKeesport site where he hopes to build a greenhouse and processing facility.
Photo provided by The Huss Group
Gabe Perlow stands at the McKeesport site where he hopes to build a greenhouse and processing facility. Photo provided by The Huss Group

Gabe Perlow has high hopes for his new company, PurePenn LLC.

Perlow, former general counsel at Pittsburgh-based McKnight Realty Partners, is also CEO of PurePenn, a company he formed with the intention of bringing a medical marijuana processing plant to McKeesport.

PurePenn applied last month to the Pennsylvania Department of Health for one of just 12 permits which will be awarded to marijuana processing and distribution facilities. Only two of those permits will be issued in Southwest Pennsylvania.

When Act 16, which established a medical marijuana program in Pennsylvania, went into effect a year ago, the then 30-year-old Jewish entrepreneur began doing “research and learning about the plant and its potential benefits,” he said.

Perlow’s first thought, coming from the real estate industry, was that there was an opportunity to get into the marijuana industry from that angle: processors would need real estate on which to process.

But after delving deeper into his research, he changed his focus and formed a team with the aim of establishing his own processing and distribution plant in McKeesport.

PurePenn submitted an application to the commonwealth on March 20 for one of the permits that will be issued for growing and processing facilities. If its application is approved, Perlow’s PurePenn will establish its plant at 321 Locust St. in the Regional Industrial Development Corp.’s Riverplace Industrial Center. Zoning approval has already been granted to PurePenn to build the facility, which may exceed 21,000 square feet.

Marijuana plants would be grown at that facility, then manufactured into an approved form for consumption to treat a host of 17 “serious” medical conditions as defined by the state, including autism, cancer, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy and glaucoma.

The medical marijuana will be processed into several forms, including drops and capsules. Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act prohibits forms of marijuana that are smoked or eaten. Pennsylvania was the 24th state to approve marijuana for medical use.

Perlow, who is a native Pittsburgher, said that the Department of Health is estimating that it will determine who will receive the growing/processing permits by July 2017.

“The last we heard, there were 900 applications,” Perlow said. Perlow is optimistic that PurePenn will be awarded one of the two permits in Southwest Pennsylvania.

“I believe we have a very strong application and a strong group,” he said.

Members of PurePenn’s team include molecular biologists, physicians with “significant medical backgrounds,” and those with medicinal expertise who will be key in the process of creating a product that will not have psycho-active properties, but will provide relief of medical symptoms.  

“We’ve only touched the surface of what the plant can do,” Perlow noted.

If granted the permit, PurePenn will be a wholesale distributor throughout the state, he said.

McKeesport was selected as the site of PurePenn’s facility, according to Perlow, to help “bring manufacturing jobs back” to an area that has been hit by economic hardship but that boasts a surplus of skilled workers.

“This is about job creation and economic development,” Perlow said.

The state also will issue 27 dispensary permits, with Southwest Pennsylvania receiving five.

Legal cannabis sales in North America reached $6.7 billion in 2016 and are projected to top more than $22 billion by 2021, according to a report by JTA.

Toby Tabachnick can be reached at tobyt@thejewishchronicle.net.

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