Medical cannabis manufacturing company Peak Harvest Health and Frostburg State University will partner in a program that could lead to job opportunities for some of the school's graduates.
"FSU has the only ethnobotany major in the U.S., as well as an extensive program focusing on understanding the medicinal value of plants," said Ethan Ruby, CEO of PHH. "By working together, we hope to educate the next generation of scientists and provide job opportunities for them in Western Maryland, while also benefiting from the medicinal plant research done by the university."
PHH in August received unanimous approval from Cumberland's mayor and city council to support the company’s application for a growing license and plans to move to the area.
In November, the company applied for one of 15 medical cannabis cultivation licenses expected to be awarded by the Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission in 2016.
Firms awarded a license are expected to be announced by January.
If awarded a growing license, PHH intends to occupy a 170,000-square-foot building in the Riverside Industrial Park on Kelly Road.
PHH officials said roughly 35 new jobs could be created in Cumberland during its first year of operation, followed by more than 100 new jobs by 2020.
PHH also recently agreed to underwrite initial funding of research incubator Appalachian Cannabis Research Cooperative.
The ACRC would provide universities in the region an opportunity to experiment — to the extent possible under state and federal laws — with technologies and advancements in cannabis cultivation, data collection and processing.
PHH operates a cannabis growing facility in Watertown, Conn. that opened in 2014.
While developing the partnership with PHH, FSU officials traveled to the Connecticut cultivation plant to observe the medical cannabis growing operation in a pharmaceutical environment.
“Our faculty and students are very much interested in how plants, and the complex ways in which they exist in nature, can be used for health purposes,” said Joseph Hoffman, dean of Frostburg State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and administrator of the Appalachian Center for Ethnobotanical Studies.
“We consider the opening of PHH’s facility in Cumberland to be a unique potential opportunity for the university to advance the understanding about medicinal and nutraceutical uses of plants,” Hoffman said. “Our partnership with PHH will comply with all state and federal laws. It will provide Frostburg State University with one more way to foster regional economic growth and workforce development, enabling our skilled students to continue working in their chosen field after graduation.”