Saxton pins hopes on medical pot
Community tours marijuana grow facility in former Seton building
SAXTON — Local residents expressed hope that a budding medical marijuana facility will help revitalize a borough once partially economically dependent on a leather plant that shut down years ago.
The medical marijuana facility along Horton Drive in Saxton is expected to start producing in a couple of weeks, said Green Leaf Medical CEO Philip Goldberg after a community tour of the facility Tuesday.
Goldberg said the facility has its occupancy certificate, but he is waiting to have the space inspected by the Department of Health.
The facility’s current 12 staff members are training in Frederick, Md.
Another wave of hirings will happen in May and June, bumping staff up to about 50, about half of the anticipated number of employees, said Jim Elftmann, the company’s director of operations.
During the community tour, more than 50 local residents toured the different spaces in the unfinished facility including flower rooms, an irrigation room and an extraction lab.
Green Leaf Medical went the whole 9 yards by building nine flower rooms, which can hold 1,000 plants each, Goldberg said. The plants are only in one flower room at a time each week.
It takes 120 days from start to finish for medical marijuana plants to be ready for harvesting, Elftmann said.
The company will start with 20 to 25 different strains, gradually introducing strains over time, he said.
The former Seton plant that Green Leaf Medical now occupies closed in 2008 and remained dormant until the medical marijuana company took over the building, according to the Bedford County Development Association’s website.
John “Phil” Johnson, a Saxton Borough Council member who went on the tour, described the facility as the “best thing that ever hit our area,” calling the medical marijuana business as a profession that is here to stay.
Fellow council member John Hoffner echoed Johnson’s words, adding that the community needed something to revitalize it ever since the Seton plant closed.
After receiving state approval, Goldberg said he hopes to have the first medical marijuana product ready within four months.
The medical cannabis will be made into gels, topical creams, oils, pills and liquids. Those who suffer from any of the 21 medical conditions recognized by Pennsylvania, including epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, HIV/AIDS and Parkinson’s disease, are eligible for medical cannabis.
Goldberg noted that medical cannabis has helped with seizures, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain.
Since medical marijuana can be used for chronic pain, Goldberg said it can replace opiates for the condition, therefore possibly acting as an exit drug from opioid addiction.
Green Leaf Medical also has a medical marijuana facility in Frederick, Md., which is about one-fifth the size of the Saxton facility and serves about 100,000 patients and 70 dispensaries, Goldberg said.
The company is also working on a facility in Virginia.
He projects the Saxton facility will generate an estimated $40 to $50 million each year, depending on the market and demand.
Green Leaf Medical will make contributions to various Saxton-area organizations, including the Tussey Mountain School District, Saxton Volunteer Fire Company, Allegany College of Maryland’s Bedford Campus, Bedford County Development Association and local senior centers.
Once the facility is fully operational, Goldberg said he hopes it puts people back to work and helps the community rebuild itself.
Green Leaf Medical has reconstructed about 100,000 feet of the facility’s total 274,000 feet. If the demand is there, Goldberg said he hopes to expand the facility.
Mirror Staff Writer Shen Wu Tan is at 946-7457.