The head of the Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council is proposing a medical marijuana growing facility in Coal Township with a dispensary nearby in Shamokin, according to a press release.

Geoff Whaling, heavily involved in the pushing for Act 16, Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program, announced he and former Philadelphia Flyer player Riley Cote, are backing a group trying to secure a license to use the former 90,000 square foot Kmart building as a growing facility. Their group is applying for one of the growing licenses and a separate dispensary license as phase two of Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program.

The former Kmart is currently owned by Shamokin District Judge John Gembic.

“This property is already properly zoned for this use and may be the only such site in the Township that would not require a zoning hearing or ordinance," Whaling said. “The city and township wanted their communities to be able to benefit from the tremendous economic impact that such a facility will have on the overall community and acted some months ago knowing that round two would provide that opportunity."

Gembic said Whaling, along with several Coal Township and Shamokin leaders worked hard to get the project off the ground.

"The city of Shamokin, Coal Township, Shamokin Mayor John Brown, Council president Craig Fetterman, all worked tirelessly on a project that will hopefully derive a financial benefit to our municipalities and to the Veterans," he said.

Last summer, the Department of Health announced the first round of growers and dispensaries. Green Thumb Industries was awarded a growing permit in Montour County and is growing its first crop now. There are no dispensaries in the Susquehanna Valley; the closest are located in Harrisburg, Wilkes-Barre and State College.

Applications for Phase 2 will be accepted until May 17, according to the Department of Health.

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