Virginia picks first 5 medical cannabis dispensaries

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RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) — UPDATE (Sep. 26):

A state panel has selected five companies to open Virginia's first medical cannabis dispensaries, including one in Staunton.

After over five hours of secret discussion, the Virginia Board of Pharmacy granted initial approval to five of the 51 applicants.

The applications were treated as medical license applications, therefore exempt from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, which allowed the meeting to take place in private.

One company was chosen for each of the state's five health service areas, so that dispensaries will be spread across the commonwealth.

The first wave will produce only CBD or THC-A oils, which don't provide a high.

The conditional awardees include Maryland-based Green Leaf Medical, Illinois-based PharmaCann and Florida-based Columbia Care. The other two licenses were awarded to newer ventures from Virginia entrepreneurs partnering with out-of-state partners: Dharma Pharmaceuticals and Dalitso LLC.

PharmaCann was chosen for Health Service Area I, which covers a wide swath of Virginia including the Shenandoah Valley and Charlottesville.

According to WHSV's Autumn Childress, they plan to open their facility in Greenhill Industrial Park, which is located near the city line of Staunton and Verona, not far from Middle River Regional Jail.

The companies will open Virginia's first authorized marijuana-growing facilities within a year, but dispensaries are only allowed to sell non-psychoactive oil to approved patients. These companies will also have to undergo background checks before the licenses are finalized.

A state panel to issue licenses for pharmaceutical processors in Virginia to be able to issue certificates for patients to use cannabidiol and THC-A for treatment was established after House Bill 1251 – originally proposed by Delegate Ben Cline, now running for Congress – was signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam.

The law, known as #LetDoctorsDecide, allows any practicing doctor in Virginia to recommend the use of medical cannabis oils to treat any diagnosed condition or disease.

A previous law, signed in 2017, established that Virginia would allow 5 pharmacies to manufacture and produce cannabidiol oil and THC-A oil.

The Executive Director of Virginia NORML previously told WHSV the earliest facilities would open in Virginia would be 2019.

Once that happens, anyone with a diagnosed condition or disease can have an affirmative defense certificate signed by a physician. It allows for the use of oil products.

Then, that person will be able to register with the program in their Health Service Area and fill their recommendation at that locations.

It's worth nothing that cannabis oil is still classified as a controlled substance by the federal government, however, making it technically illegal on a national level. The oils, to meet the definitions set in this legislation, must contain at least 15% CBD or THC-A, but can't contain more than 5% THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

You can learn more about the new law here.

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The state panel that will award Virginia's first five medical marijuana licenses will keep the application review process confidential.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports Virginia Board of Pharmacy Chair Rafael Saenz announced Tuesday that the 51 applications would be considered in closed session. The decision came after regulators conferred about Virginia's public-meeting law for 30 minutes. The pharmacy board's executive director, Caroline Juran, says the attorney general's office provided advice.

Medical cannabis applications are being treated as medical license applications, and are therefore exempt from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act — unlike other business proposals.

The presiding committee did release initial application scores, but the companies weren't identified by name.

This first wave of dispensaries will produce only CBD or THC-A oils, which don't provide a high.

A state panel to issue licenses for pharmaceutical processors in Virginia to be able to issue certificates for patients to use cannabidiol and THC-A for treatment was established after House Bill 1251 – originally proposed by Delegate Ben Cline, now running for Congress – was signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam.

The law, known as #LetDoctorsDecide, allows any practicing doctor in Virginia to recommend the use of medical cannabis oils to treat any diagnosed condition or disease.

A previous law, signed in 2017, established that Virginia would allow 5 pharmacies to manufacture and produce cannabidiol oil and THC-A oil.

The request for applications (RFA) for pharmaceutical processors opened on April 16th, and licenses for facilities are scheduled to be awarded this month. The Executive Director of Virginia NORML previously told WHSV the earliest facilities would open in Virginia would be 2019.

Once that happens, anyone with a diagnosed condition or disease can have an affirmative defense certificate signed by a physician. It allows for the use of oil products, which are not intoxicating, psychotropic, or hallucinogenic.

Then, that person will be able to register with the program in their Health Service Area (one for each of the 5 areas) and fill their recommendation at those locations.

It's worth nothing that cannabis oil is still classified as a controlled substance by the federal government, however, making it technically illegal on a national level. The oils, to meet the definitions set in this legislation, must contain at least 15% CBD or THC-A, but can't contain more than 5% THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

You can learn more about the new law here.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.