Virginia has received medical cannabis applications from 49 companies who are eyeing to be among the state’s first retail cannabis shops. While this gives state officials plenty of options, they are set to award only five licenses this summer.
The state opened its application process only in mid-April.
Virginia’s new medical cannabis law
Governor Ralph Northam signed the medical cannabis oil bill into law just a little over three months ago. The new legislation allows Virginia residents to legally avail of medical cannabis oil.
The medical cannabis oil bill, which was recommended by the Joint Commission on Health Care, was passed by the House and unanimously by the Senate in February. The bill greatly expands the original medical cannabis program and now allows patients to obtain and use cannabis oil in the treatment of any diagnosed medical condition. Under the original program, only those who suffer from intractable epilepsy can use cannabis legally without facing the risk of criminal penalties.
The new legislation also allows any doctor to recommend cannabis treatment. Prior to this, epilepsy specialists and neurologists were the only ones allowed to make recommendations.
What’s more, the new law allows cannabis oil containing either cannabidiol (CBD) or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), or both, in treating severe health conditions. The new law further increases the quantity of cannabis oil that each patient can purchase from any of the state’s five approved producers. Moreover, the supply period of cannabis oil that a pharmaceutical processor is permitted to dispense is also increased from 30 days to 90 days.
Pursuant to the new law, the cannabis oil must have at least 15% CBD or a maximum of 5% THC. Furthermore, patients and doctors will have to register with the Board of Medicine. Virginia’s prohibition of other cannabis products, including flowers and edibles, remains. To put it simply, only cannabis oils are legally permitted.
The applications required a $10,000 filing fee. They were submitted to the Virginia Board of Pharmacy, which plans to issue a license to one medical cannabis oil dispensary for each of the five health service areas in the state.
Several participants said that the number of applications filed was a bit higher than they had initially expected. This, however, can be seen as a sign of strong interest from local businesses and established industry players who are looking for a foothold in the state.
According to Dave Albo, a former state delegate now lobbyist representing one of the applicants, Nova Pharma Processors LLC, it takes a significant amount to build the needed infrastructure, not to mention know-how.
Jake Bergmann, founder and CEO of another applicant, Surterra Holdings, said that he is surprised that many were able to organize within that period of time. The Atlanta-based company applied in three of the five health areas.
The state is not going to release the applications because they contain proprietary information.
When they open, the licensed facilities will be limited to offering cannabis oils. However, the first wave of license holders could have a bigger role if the state further relaxes medical cannabis laws or legalizes recreational cannabis in the future.
State officials will review the applications over the next few months, and grant conditional approvals in mid-August. Applicants who are chosen will then go through criminal background checks before they are given the final approval, which is expected to be in late September.
Pursuant to the state’s evaluation system, each of the applicants will be receiving a score that is based on several criteria, including expertise growing cannabis, financial standing, building plans, marketing efforts, and security measures. The guidelines note that marketing material should, in no way, promote recreational use of the cannabis oil.