Interested in buying legal cannabis within Virginia’s new medical marijuana program?
Here’s everything you need to know about what it is, how it works, who qualifies, and the dispensaries that will be serving Virginia:
*Update: Virginia recently passed decriminalization legislation on Feb. 11 2020
Medical: Yes, CBD/THCa oils only
Dispensaries: Five (scroll down)
Possession Penalties: Misdemeanor charge, up to 30 days in jail, up to $500 fine.
Legal marijuana in Virginia
Virginia’s medical marijuana program is similar to Florida’s compassionate care program. While cannabis is allowed to exist and five dispensaries are currently operating out of Virginia, nobody is allowed to sell cannabis flowers. Instead, they are limited to cultivating and manufacturing cannabis products in-house.
Unlike other medical cannabis programs, Virginia requires a limited selection of products to CBD and THCa oils, which contain less than 5% of the psychoactive compound found in cannabis known as THC.
In 2018 and early 2019, several bills were established and passed, allowing for a medical program. SB 1557 took effect on July 1st, 2019. However, the language of the legislature is different than the marijuana laws in other states.
Virginia does not prescribe cannabis because of its schedule 1 status on the federal level. Virginia also takes a pretty heavy anti-cannabis stance, criminalizing all forms of possession and enforcing the law with hefty fines and possible jail time.
However, there was a need for a program to be developed. In 2019, Virginia officials created an “affirmative defense,” which protects registered medical marijuana patients from facing criminal charges for possessing CBD and THCa oils. For the defense to take effect, patients must meet with a registered Board of Pharmacy healthcare provider and receive a written certification for use. With a doctor’s note in hand, patients then have to register with the Board themselves.
After some review, patients will receive an affirmative defense card which allows them to buy, consume, and carry regulated Virginia-grown cannabis products manufactured and purchased from one of the state’s five dispensaries. This card protects patients from any prosecution involving CBD or THCa oils, including oils obtained out of state.
Patients will then receive an affirmative defense card, which enables them to legally buy, carry and consume regulated, medical-grade cannabis products purchased from one of the state’s five dispensaries.
Each dispensary serves a district of Virginia and operates a storefront where patients can purchase CBD and THCa oils. Each dispensary is responsible for growing the cannabis and manufacturing medical products entirely in-house. Before 2018, oils were all you could get. However, this year’s bill expanded the product types that can be offered to patients to include capsules, topicals, lozenges, lollipops, and suppositories, with an allowance of up to 10 mg of THC each.
Who qualifies for medical cannabis in Virginia
To be eligible for medical marijuana in Virginia, you’ll need a written certificate from your doctor or nurse. Your practitioner must be registered with Virginia’s Board of Pharmacy that states that your symptoms would improve from using CBD or THCa. You must also be a resident of Virginia and diagnosed with a chronic, debilitating condition. Debilitating conditions include:
- Chronic pain
- Severe Nausea
- Epilepsy and other seizure disorders
- Neuropathic pain disorders
- Crohn’s disease
- Terminal illness
- Muscle spasms
- Anorexia and bulimia
- Cachexia and wasting syndrome
Luckily Virginia’s medical marijuana laws allow healthcare professionals to decide if a patient should use medical cannabis, opening up a broad acceptance policy!
To apply for and use medical marijuana in Virginia, patients must bring a valid driver’s license or ID issued by the state of Virginia. Once approved, patients must also register with the Department of Health Professions and pay a $50 registration fee.
Some minors also qualify for Virginia’s medical marijuana program. In that case, the parent or guardian registers the child and also themselves so they can purchase medicine for their child.
Once you’ve applied, Virginia’s Board of Pharmacy will process the application within 7-10 days and mail registration cards out to the address you provide at registration. Once that’s all squared away, you can shop at any medical marijuana dispensary in Virginia.
Virginia’s 5 licensed medical marijuana dispensaries
Virginia has a total of five medical marijuana dispensaries. The dispensaries with licenses are required to grow their own cannabis, process the CBD and THCa oils themselves, and sell the final products in-house.
PharmaCann operates in Health Service Area 1, which covers Shenandoah Valley and Charlottesville. The dispensary is located in Staunton. PharmaCann is originally from Chicago, where it operates four dispensaries, and two commercial cannabis grows. In total, they have three dispensary licenses and one commercial grow license for Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program. Most recently, the company was purchased by MedMen, one of the most notable names in Big Cannabis. MedMen subsidiaries operate in California, New York, Illinois, Florida, and Nevada, as well as Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Columbia Care is located in Portsmouth and serves Area 5, which includes Eastern Shore, Chesapeake, Hampton, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach. Columbia Care is based in New York and was the first company to open a dispensary in Manhattan after winning their license. They operate in a total of nine states as well as Puerto Rico and Malta. You can also find a Columbia Care location in DC, where it goes by the name Capital City Care. They have plans to expand into Maryland as soon as they’re able.
Dalitso is located in Manassas and serves northern Virginia, or area two, which includes Arlington, Fairfax, Alexandria, and Loudoun. They are a brand new company founded by a group of local pharmacists, lawyers, and real estate professionals that partnered up with medical cannabis professionals out of state. They currently operate with a start-up to earn a license.
Dharma was a little delayed in opening this year due to a relocation issue. When they are officially open, they’ll be the only other dispensary with a start-up to earn license. The Dharma district covers the southwestern part of Virginia, including Covington, Salem, Lynchburg, Danville, Martinsville, and Radford, also known as area 3. Considered a mom and pop operation, Dharma is led by a pharmacist from Abingdon who also runs his own pharmacy.
Green Leaf hails from Maryland and was lucky enough to secure a grow license in VA. They operate out of area 4, which covers Richmond and surrounding counties. The dispensary itself is located in Manchester in the South Richmond borough. In recent months, the company has raised over $20 million dollars to expand their company into both Ohio and Pennsylvania.