Peckham vies to grow medical marijuana in Chestertown

By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor

A subsidiary of construction company Peckham Industries wants to grow medical marijuana at Peckham’s 17-acre industrial park on Route 9 in Chestertown.

Hillary Peckham, a 23-year-old Hamilton College graduate and the daughter of company CEO John Peckham, and her mother Amy and sister Keeley are the applicants, through a Peckham Industries subsidiary, Etain, LLC.

They are among dozens of companies vying for five state licenses to grow, manufacture, distribute and dispense medical marijuana for patients being treated for cancer, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and HIV/AIDs and other life-threatening diseases.

Another bidder, Compassionate Relief Centers of New York, is in the Cambridge area of Washington County. (See separate article below.)

Hillary Peckham, contacted for comment, said, “We are trying to arrange for an appearance at the Town Board in Chestertown because we do feel that would be the best location for our grow-manufacturing facility.”

She said “for the grow, you’re looking at probably 30 jobs initially.

“Each license includes a grow facility and four dispensaries,” she said.

“There will be five licenses given out in New York State, and there will be a total of 20 dispensaries. That is really why our goal is to be spread out geographically as much as possible so that everyone has access to this medicine.

“A lot of other companies are trying to locate where there is the highest density of people, which makes sense because that is where the patients are. Our focus is not making an immediate profit, it’s mostly getting patients access.

“We really are concerned about patients in upstate New York getting the medicine that they need. That’s what our focus is.”

Chester Town Supervisor Fred Monroe said he has talked with Amy Peckham and hopes to set up a public meeting to discuss the idea in the next three weeks.

“It was kind of left open, but my impression is from every location they have looked at, they preferred the Chestertown site,” Mr. Monroe said.

“I told Amy that I felt it was important to get as much information out there as soon as possible. She is looking for support from the town and said they plan to go in front of the Planning Board with their ideas.”

Asked his opinion, Mr. Monroe said, “I don’t want to take an official position until the Town Board hears their plans, but I think it could be good for the area. It’s a good number of jobs and medical marijuana makes sense.

“I think it does help people from what I know and what I’ve read…We don’t have much industry here in the Adirondacks. I think it’s a good thing.”

Berndt: Washington County site is ideal for marijuana license

Ted Berndt, who owns a former mushroom growing facility in the Town of Jackson in southern Washington County, is vying for one of five New York State medical marijuana cultivation licenses, in partnership with Stephen Lulla, a former Wall Street hedge fund manager.

Their company, Compassionate Relief Centers of New York, has the unanimous support of the town boards of Jackson and White Creek and the village boards of Cambridge and Greenwich. They hope to gain the backing of the Washington County Board of Supervisors.

“Producing high quality, plant-based medicines for patients is our #1 priority,” Mr. Berndt said.

“The second is jobs. Twenty-five to thirty jobs here would have a lot more impact than it would in Westchester County or New York City.

“We think Washington County is ideal for this. It’s an agricultural county with a strong tradition of farming.”

Mr. Berndt said, “Some of the feedback we are getting is we are doing what we’re supposed to do.” — G. Woodworth

Says ‘drug could help my family’

Hillary Peckham said she studied human biology and music therapy at Hamilton, and that her sister studied horticultural therapy and botany at Tulane, “so we really have this background of trying to help people.

“Two years ago, my grandmother, Frances Keeffe, passed away from ALS [Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis], so we watched that whole process. She lost about 30 pounds and couldn’t talk and it was really difficult.

“Being in New York, we didn’t have access to [medical marijuana], and that was the first time we were introduced to doctors recommending that we go out of state or move her out of state to get access to this drug, because she was really nauseous all of the time and she couldn’t eat because of mouth sores, and she was really anxious and we couldn’t move her out of state.

“Additionally, my cousin Deirdre suffers from Rett Syndrome and autism, and she has more than 120 seizures a day. This is a drug that could really help her so we were really thrilled when New York passed the bill, because this is an opportunity to bring a highly regulated new pharmaceutical industry into New York that could directly help my family.”

$200,000 filing fee if selected

The process for allowing medical marijuana started when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act last July. Dispensary sales are expected to begin in January 2016.

There is a $10,000 application fee. If a company is selected, there is a $200,000 filing fee.

“It’s a low price to buy in” initially, Ms. Peckham said, “and if you’re successful, it gets more expensive.”

Lobbying groups are positioning themselves as consultants to companies seeking one of the licenses.

“There is a huge industry popping up,” Hillary said, “not only of the actual production of this medicine but getting the license, which makes sense because the process is going to be very competitive.

“So we have really been focusing on finding people who we think are in this for the right reasons, and we’ve created an amazing team of experts. Our consultant is Joe Stevens, who got his license in New Jersey, and that is a hugely regulated state as well…He has a dispensary in Montclair.

“We’re also partnering with industry experts and experts in the horticultural field. We have partnered with the New York Botanical Gardens and a few other research places throughout New York. We have security experts and pharmaceutical experts.”

Host county will get share of tax revenue

Medical marijuana in New York will be subject to a 7% excise tax, and the host county where the medical marijuana is produced will receive 22.5% of the excise tax revenue. The counties where it is dispensed will also get 22.5%.

Five percent of the revenue will go to the State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services for prevention and counseling. Another 5% will go to the Department of Criminal Justice Services.

The remaining 45% will likely go into the state’s general fund.

This information is from the State Department of Health website.

Ted Berndt, who is seeking one of the five licenses for his Jackson agricultural park in southern Washington County, said estimates are host counties will receive $160,000 for every $10-million in sales. — Gordon Woodworth

Copyright © 2015 Lone Oak Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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