Jack Kidd is finished with medical marijuana.
“I’m done,” said the Texas oilman, who operates a natural gas pipeline in the hinterlands of northeastern Pennsylvania. “I just don’t care anymore.”
Kidd sniffed opportunity last year when Gov. Wolf legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes.
In March, the El Paso entrepreneur applied to the commonwealth to grow marijuana at a site he had picked out 30 miles north of Scranton.
An anonymous panel convened by the state graded Kidd’s application and 176 others.
In June, the state Department of Health awarded a dozen growing permits.
Kidd’s company, PTMD Farm LP, was shut out. Of all the applicants, his score put him dead last.
“We only got 195 points out of 1,000,” he said. “It was an insult.”
Most permit winners scored well over 700 points.
The secret state panel graded applications on a variety of criteria. It weighed, among other things, how much capital each company was willing to invest, its business plan, and whether any principals had a criminal history.
A hefty portion of the total score — 20 percent — was based on a community-impact statement and a diversity plan.
PTMD Farm, which ranked among the four lowest for its community-impact statement, received zero points for its diversity plan.
The scoring, Kidd said, was “all very subjective. There was no clear-cut criteria for the grading system.”
The state — citing a requirement to protect company trade secrets and proprietary information — redacted more than 100 pages of PTMD Farm’s application, blacking them out from top to bottom.
Kidd no longer has a copy. He says he threw away all his paperwork in disgust.
It’s hard to tell from Kidd’s application exactly why it bombed so utterly. However, there are some clues.
Many of the permit winners had up to 20 pages outlining their diversity plans, including detailed information about each corporate officer and financial backer, delineating race, gender, and whether the person had served in the military. Many of the companies listed their memberships in minority- or female-oriented business organizations. Others cited certification by outside agencies.
Kidd’s application contained a single paragraph. His wife, Victa, listed as a principal, “is a woman,” it states. Kidd himself is Hispanic American, and the proposed general manager “is a minority.”
“The man who would be running [the operation] was Hispanic,” Kidd said.
He had hoped to create 40 jobs in a depressed area in the tiny borough of Waymart, in Wayne County. The ambitious plan included building a plant to generate his own electricity, fueled by the natural gas pipeline he owns that also runs to the nearby high-security federal penitentiary in Canaan. “I was going to run the carbon dioxide from the cogeneration plant into the growing rooms,” Kidd said, “to help the marijuana plants even more.”
He’s disappointed, soured that he’s out his nonrefundable $10,000 application fee, and still waiting for the state to return his $200,000 deposit.
He figures he spent $2,500 in attorney fees and 80 hours of his life getting his application together. “And my time is worth $500 an hour,” he said.
In comparison, PurePenn LLC, which the state granted a permit to grow marijuana in McKeesport near Pittsburgh, spent “hundreds of thousands of dollars and thousands of attorney hours” during the application process, said PurePenn spokeswoman Joanna Huss.
Unlike many other losing applicants, Kidd doesn’t plan to appeal the state’s decision.
The state “had that whole dog-and-pony show about if we wanted to protest or go to court. I wasn’t interested. I didn’t want to spend another $20,000 to $50,000 to hear them say you weren’t even in the running,” he said.
“I have better things to do with my life.”