Medical marijuana facility celebrates opening

SARAH SMELTZ/The Express Members of Terrapin Care Station with the various county community officials and organizers who got the company running at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

SOUTH AVIS — “It’s been a collaborative community effort,” said Pete Smeltz, chair of the Clinton County commissioners.

Collaboration seemed to be a theme at the ribbon-cutting Wednesday afternoon for Terrapin Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana facility.

Terrapin Pennsylvania is one of 12 recipients of a medical cannabis growing and processing license in the state, and it is consistently held up as an industry model.

Its facility, on Henry Street, has brought 43 jobs to the region.

The company is proud that 30 percent of the local workers are veterans and that it employs a staff made up of 53 percent women.

Terrapin not only brings long-term paying jobs, but also additional commerce related to the industry, all of which means improvements for the community overall, Smeltz said.

Through providing security for Terrapin, Dave Harger and his VETFORCE Inc. have reportedly become the premiere security firm for the industry in Pennsylvania.

Harger said the firm’s workforce is composed of 80 percent veterans.

“Terrapin’s support for veterans extends beyond jobs to helping veterans struggling with PTSD and identifying solutions to the opioid crisis,” Harger said.

According to Terrapin, states with medical cannabis laws saw 2.21 million fewer daily opioid overdoses, since having legal marijuana available can reduce the need for opioid prescriptions.

Terrapin Pennsylvania also employed local contractors to get the facility up and running, reported Michael Flanagan, president and CEO of the Clinton County Economic Partnership.

The ribbon-cutting was held in a large, vacant manufacturing space at the Henry Street Partnership, next to Terrapin Pennsylvania’s cultivation and processing facility that spans 150,000 square feet.

The day was lovely, and many were dressed casually, ready to attend the Economic Partnership’s picnic later that afternoon.

Elected officials and other local leaders gathered for a brief program, which highlighted the positive impacts medical marijuana is having in Pennsylvania, not just for the patients who can benefit from the products, but also for the state’s economy.

“On the other side of this wall, we’re producing a great product to help people,” Flanagan said.

He recalled the first time he met Chris Woods, founder and owner of Terrapin Care Station and chief executive of Terrapin Pennsylvania. They met almost two years ago, at a time when the state was poised to welcome manufacturing companies to create the safe, newly legalized medical products.

Flanagan introduced Woods as “a friend to Clinton County,” and Woods said, “We couldn’t ask for a better partner than Clinton County… the elected officials, the pillars of this community. Thank you all.”

Terrapin Pennsylvania is operating in what Woods called “a nascent industry” for this state. Only about 28,000 Pennsylvanians are registered to receive medical cannabis products at this point in time, he said.

“This is saving lives and transforming the state,” he said. “We have an unwavering commitment to provide medicine to patients all across Pennsylvania who need it, while also creating jobs and stimulating the economy. The people of Clinton County can take satisfaction in Terrapin medicine’s being made right here and distributed throughout the state.”

He thanked state Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Lock Haven, for driving the process of legalization and for helping Terrapin open.

Hanna said once the process of legalization got going, it became something of “a whirlwind,” with things happening quickly.

He said he was not familiar with what legal access to medical cannabis could mean for patients until he was asked to help move it forward. He recalled hearings in which mothers described how medical marijuana freed their children from debilitating seizures.

“As much as we love the economic part of this, don’t forget what this is doing for people,” he said.

Hanna successfully sought bipartisan agreement, and legalization moved quickly from there, he said.

“It was really exciting to have Terrapin say they were interested in this,” he said.

Clinton County is a good fit for the industry, he noted, as it can be proud that 22 percent of its jobs are in manufacturing, higher than the state average.

Deb Rudy, field representative for state Sen. Joe Scarnati, R-Brockway, also spoke about Terrapin’s two-fold impact.

“There are people here who want to work, people who need the work, and these are family-sustaining jobs,” she said.

And Scarnati’s written statement referred to how medical cannabis has been proven to provide help for “many suffering children and adults.”

Commissioner Smeltz said he was not “a believer” that medical marijuana could be used to get the good results being seen today — that is, he wasn’t a believer until he met Woods. The young manufacturer brings his business experience in Boulder, Colorado, a state in which Terrapin Care Station is one of the oldest medical cannabis providers. He gave Smeltz information and resources, and the county commissioner found that learning about the issue changed his mind.

“That’s when the community pulled together,” Smeltz said. “The county, Representative Hanna, Senator Scarnati, Pine Creek Township, all worked to educate the community and overcome the fear of such a product.”

He added, “Applications are pending in the state of Pennsylvania for more facilities, and we’re hoping we can get another one.”

Woods was pleased to have family members with him Wednesday so they could see the plant for the first time.

Each product made here has an expertly formulated cannabinoid ratio to treat specific illnesses and conditions, Terrapin Pennsylvania reported.

The facility has been operating since November, Woods said. It is now fully staffed, and its products have been available to patients through permitted dispensaries in Pennsylvania since April, making this a good time to hold the ribbon-cutting.

“We want to show the community what we’re doing,” he said.

Terrapin also likes to be engaged in communities where it operates and has pledged $25,000 to refurbish a veterans memorial in this county.