Temple silent on marijuana facility

Temple will build a $10 million marijuana research facility, despite city and state officials asking university administrators to consider building it near Erie Avenue and 2nd Street, which is currently the site of an abandoned warehouse. | SYDNEY SCHAEFER / THE TEMPLE NEWS
Temple will build a $10 million marijuana research facility, despite city and state officials asking university administrators to consider building it near Erie Avenue and 2nd Street, which is currently the site of an abandoned warehouse. | SYDNEY SCHAEFER / THE TEMPLE NEWS

University officials have repeatedly ignored the written and verbal requests from elected officials to change the location of Temple’s $10 million medical marijuana research facility, which is slated to be built in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania in Lancaster County.

City and state officials said they have called and written to university officials, urging them to build the facility near Erie Avenue and 2nd Street in order to create jobs for community residents.

United States Rep. Bob  Brady co-authored two letters in February and November 2017 with Philadelphia Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez and state Sen. Sharif Street, condemning Temple’s construction of the research facility nearly 90 miles away from Main Campus.

These letters were addressed to university officials, including President Richard Englert and Board of Trustees Chairman Patrick O’Connor. The university has not responded to multiple letters asking to discuss the issue, Brady said.

University officials also declined to comment for this story.

In their letters, the elected officials propose that the university use the site in North Philadelphia, which is home to a 96,000-square-foot abandoned warehouse, zoned for a marijuana growing and research facility.

They argue that building the facility in North Philadelphia would be a multimillion-dollar investment in the neighborhood and would create up to 70 jobs.

Temple has instead decided to partner with Laurel Harvest Labs to move forward with the facility in Mount Joy, against the recommendation of local officials.

“How do you not take a meeting from your councilperson, your senator, your state representative and your mayor?” Brady said. “I’ve never had this happen to me on any level.”

A provision of the 2016 Medical Marijuana Act passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly allows state universities to partner with clinical registrants, like Laurel Harvest Labs, to grow marijuana, while a medical school advises and researches the drug.  Temple is interested in how marijuana can be used to treat chronic illness.

An attorney representing Laurel Harvest Labs contacted the politicians in response to their initial letter, declining their proposed North Philadelphia location and citing that it was too close to area schools and could negatively affect them.

“We’ve talked to the area schools and they are fine with it,” Brady said. “They are supporting it wholeheartedly and there is a major space in between the schools and the plant.”

Quiñones-Sánchez said in a third letter to the university in June 2017 that she hoped Temple would consider a clinical registrant that would commit to making a deal to benefit North Philadelphia, like the business Keystone Alternative Care.

The group of legislators support Keystone Alternative Care as the clinical registrant for a facility in North Philadelphia after the company pledged to hire people from the community and donate $1 million to fund to local community organizations.

“We will establish a board and it will be all Temple people, and various community organizations to address where this $1 million a year will go to enhance the community,” Brady said.

“A Temple medical marijuana research facility in North Philadelphia would have generated scores of jobs and millions annually, especially for schools,” Street said in a statement to The Temple News. “While it is disappointing that North Philadelphia was not selected as the location site, we will continue to communicate with community stakeholders and advocates for every opportunity to elevate and enhance the future viability of North Philadelphia communities.”

Brady said a North Philadelphia location would not just provide a promising opportunity for the community, but could also employ Temple students in plant operations and administrative roles.

He added that he will continue advocating for a North Philadelphia facility and is still willing to meet with the university.

“Temple University’s mission, defined by Russell Conwell’s ‘Acres of Diamonds’ speech, speaks of finding true opportunity in its own backyard,” the lawmakers wrote in their November 2017 letter. “We hope that the university lives up to its mission and seizes this opportunity within the shadows of Conwell Hall.”

 

Will Bleier
can be reached at william.bleier@temple.edu Or you can follow Will on Twitter @will_bleier Follow The Temple News @TheTempleNews

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