Just two years after Erie-based Calypso Enterprises opened the area’s first legal medical marijuana growing facility at 910 Downing Ave., demand has outpaced supply.
Pennsylvania Department of Health has confirmed that Calypso has been licensed and approved to begin growing medical marijuana inside a 50,000-square-foot addition that doubles the size of the facility.
And employment at the facility — which started at about 30 — will soon reach 160, plus another 20 security guards, for a total of 180 employees.
It seemed likely early on that an expansion might be justified, said Laura Guncheon, vice president of the project management office at Erie Management Group, which includes Calypso.
“It was very clear very early in phase 1 that we did not have enough capacity to meet the demands of the program,” she said.
Early estimates suggested that 1% to 2% of eligible Pennsylvania residents might obtain medical marijuana cards. Today, more than 530,000 residents — more than 4% of the state’s residents — have been approved to purchase medical marijuana.
With about 114 operating dispensaries in the state, “Pennsylvania is one of the largest medical marijuana markets in the country,” Guncheon said, adding that every one of the state’s dispensaries sell products produced at Calypso in Erie.
Calypso, owned and operated by Samuel P. “Pat” Black and his daughter, Sumi James-Black, applied to expand the licensed facility in February 2020 and began moving dirt in April of that year. Because medical marijuana was determined by Gov. Tom Wolf to be an essential business, there were no construction shutdowns, Guncheon said.
Maggi Barton, deputy press secretary for the Department of Health, said the expanded facility, with the exception of its new lab, was authorized to begin operations on April 26.
Despite Calypso’s rapid growth, the company has kept a low profile in its eastside neighborhood.
“We operate very quietly. A lot of people don’t know who we are and what we do,” Guncheon said. “You don’t know what it is if you just drive past. We did that on purpose. We don’t want to draw undue attention.”
When it all started:Erie’s Calypso starts growing medical marijuana
While some local companies are struggling to fill open jobs, Guncheon said Calypso has had no problem finding employees.
She didn’t rule out the possibility of future expansions, especially if Pennsylvania eventually legalizes marijuana for recreational use.
“I think this is another step,” she said.” We know already that if adult use is legalized, in terms of Pennsylvania, we do not have enough capacity.”