McKEESPORT (KDKA) — Hard times hit McKeesport when the mills closed, but now the struggling Mon Valley city may be trading in steel for marijuana.

On Friday, the city planning commission approved a proposal to turn a vacant industrial site on the Mon into a growing and processing site for medical marijuana.

The state is accepting applications from potential growers and distributors, and the project – by a group called PurePenn – must get local approvals first.

“I grew up here. I want to see the economic development here. I think we can bring in 25 to 50 jobs,” said Ray Boyer, of PurePenn.

PurePenn is just one of hundreds of potential medical marijuana applicants across the state, but while the competitors will be many, the licenses will be few in number — at least initially.

The Board of Health has divided the state into six regions and will allow only a limited number of licenses in each.

In the 11-county southwestern corner, applicants will vie for only two grower/processor permits, or one of five dispensary permits.

Join The Conversation On The KDKA Facebook Page
Stay Up To Date, Follow KDKA On Twitter

In all, there will 12 grower/processors in the state and 27 dispensaries spread across the Commonwealth. But PurePenn believes McKeesport is a perfect spot.

“At the end of the day, this is still manufacturing. It’s still a product, and we’re trying to get it out to residents of Pennsylvania and the skilled work that’s in McKeesport is fit to do that,” said Gabriel Perlow, of PurePenn.

And so did the commission.

KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “A bit of a departure from steel to pot?”

“Well, times have changed from those days,” said the Planning Commission’s Albert Tedesco. “Again, it’s something that’s been approved by the state of Pennsylvania and time moves forward.”