Virginia regulators gave initial approval Tuesday to five companies planning to open the state’s first medical cannabis dispensaries, selecting a mix of established industry players and Virginia-based entrepreneurs.
After private discussions that lasted more than five hours, the Virginia Board of Pharmacy named the five winning applications out of a field of 51.
Within a year, the selected companies will open the state’s first authorized marijuana growing facilities, but the dispensaries will sell only non-psychoactive CBD and THC-A oils to registered patients who obtain paperwork from a doctor. The winning companies will now have to undergo background checks before the license awards are finalized later this year.
To ensure the oils are accessible to Virginia patients regardless of where they live, the pharmacy board approved one application for each of the state’s five health service areas.
The conditional license for Health Service Area I—which stretches from Fredericksburg to Charlottesville and the Shenandoah Valley—went to Illinois-based PharmaCann, which bills itself as one of the largest medical cannabis companies operating in high-regulation states. The company plans to open its facility in an industrial park near Staunton.
The licenses in Northern Virginia (Health Service Area II) and Southwest Virginia (Health Service Area III) went to newer ventures involving Virginia entrepreneurs who joined with more experienced out-of-state partners.
Northern Virginia licensee Dalitso LLC intends to open a facility in Manassas.
Maryland-based Green Leaf Medical won the initial award for Health Service Area IV, which includes the Richmond region and parts of Southside Virginia.
The company—which already operates in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ohio—is planning to open its dispensary in Richmond, according to CEO Philip Goldberg. “We are really excited to be operating in Richmond, and we’re going to bring some incredible products to the patients of Virginia.”
The license in the Hampton Roads-anchored Health Service Area III also went to a well-known industry player, Florida-based Columbia Care.
In Southwest Virginia, conditional licensee Dharma Pharmaceuticals plans to open a dispensary at the vacant Bristol Mall.
The General Assembly has taken several steps to relax Virginia’s medical marijuana laws after parents of children with seizure disorders lobbied legislators for better access to cannabis-derived oils proponents say help to ease muscle spasms and relieve pain, inflammation and nausea.