Jeannette: Hemp drying facility could reopen under certain conditions | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

Jeannette: Hemp drying facility could reopen under certain conditions

Renatta Signorini
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Jeannette Fire Chief Bill Frye attaches a cease and desist order to the entrance of the warehouse for Patriot Shield Security on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019 along Thomas Avenue in Jeannette.

If Patriot Shield Security addresses odor complaints at their hemp drying facility in Jeannette, the company will be permitted to resume operations on a temporary basis, said city solicitor Tim Witt.

“That needs to immediately be brought into compliance before anyone operates in that building again,” he said.

The company has until Dec. 2 to fix other issues that prompted the city to shut the controversial plant down Wednesday. If those changes are made, an occupancy permit could be issued.

But until that happens, the building cannot be accessed, Witt said.

“They definitely still have equipment and product in there,” he said. “The ball’s in their court to make sure they’re coming into compliance.”

Representatives from Patriot Shield did not return a message Friday.

Jeannette officials issued a cease and desist order Wednesday after the company failed to meet code requirements to operate in the Thomas Avenue warehouse. City officials have said Colorado-based Patriot Shield Security opened in September without getting an occupancy permit.

Among issues with the building are inadequate exit lighting and failure to provide architectural drawings, officials said.

But the most noticeable problem was the smell that blanketed the neighborhood.

Residents living near the facility complained about a strong marijuana-like odor, and the state Department of Environmental Protection issued two notices of odor violations — on Oct. 7 and Nov. 1. The city permitted the plant to operate on a temporary basis until Nov. 2. But officials said changes to meet code requirements had not been completed, resulting in the cease and desist order.

Last week, former Patriot Shield employees began protesting the company because they haven’t received a paycheck in weeks. The warehouse employed more than 200 people, many of whom continued to work despite the pay issues.

Some former employees said they have filed labor-related complaints.

It’s unclear what regulations — if any — exist on the storage and manufacture of hemp products. The U.S. Farm Bill, which last year legalized the crop, regulates growers only. The state Department of Agriculture inspects farmers that grow hemp but is not responsible for facilities that store and process it.

Farmers brought hemp to Patriot Shield Security to be dried into smokeable hemp flowers. That smoke tastes like pot and delivers the purported health and relaxation benefits of cannabinoids, without the THC that gets the smoker high.

Patriot Shield Security started last year in Colorado, providing transportation and security for hemp and cannabis businesses. Customers wanted places to store and process their products, which led Patriot Shield to expand its mission.

The Thomas Avenue warehouse is owned by Herzl Real Estate, an Israeli-American company that bought the property for nearly $1.5 million in 2017. Herzl initially hoped to turn the warehouse into a medical marijuana grower/processor, but the state did not grant its 2018 permit application.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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