Virginia's First Medical Cannabis Sites Slated To Open
A few years after Virginia lawmakers approved its first medical cannabis facilities, four of them are expected to open by the end of the year. Because they operate like pharmacies under state law, COVID-19 is not seen as as a setback.
The program now has more than 3,800 patients with qualifying conditions like epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, registered by the state’s Board of Pharmacy.
The four dispensaries are open to patients with a valid registration from the Virginia Board of Pharmacy, and doctor's recommendation.
Dharma Pharmaceuticals could open its facility by the end of August.
Founder and COO Jack Page says his company can add as many as five more dispensing sites in Southwest Virginia by early 2021, based on Board of Pharmacy regulations.
“There has been an overwhelming amount of interest from property owners all across the region, so we’re evaluating all our options at this point," he said. "Until you know exactly what the process is going to be, it’s hard to hone in on any one specific location.”
Dharma will start its base of operations in Bristol, but because voters there are considering a casino for the same site, the company will be moving to Abingdon by 2021. Washington County’s Board of Supervisors recently approved the move.
"We talk about (Bristol) as our incubator," Page said. "We built a smaller facility here, but that's kind of allowed us to learn 'we like how we did this, we don't particularly like how we did that,' so we'll have a much more efficiently facility in Abingdon."
One of the leading advocates for the medical cannabis program says more major health systems in Virginia need to support the use of cannabis oils, and let their practitioners back it as well.
Jenn Michelle Pedini is the Executive Director of Virginia NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
“We’ve seen this throughout the country," Pedini said. "The state’s major health systems issuing letters to their practitioners directing them not to register with the state to issue these certifications to patients. So that is really placing a strain on patients to find – not only a practitioner to issue a certification, but a practitioner that will take their insurance to do so.”
Virginia’s first sites for growing and dispensing medical cannabis will open in Bristol, Richmond, Portsmouth, and Manassas. Each represents one of Virginia’s Health Service Areas.
Plans for a Staunton dispensary fell through, but the Board of Pharmacy expects to seek new applicants late this year.