Former Bristol mall could be the state's first medical marijuana dispensary

Oil could help patients with an array of medical conditions

ROANOKE, Va. – Five companies could soon be producing cannabis oil across the commonwealth.

The Virginia Board of Pharmacy conditionally approved their applications Tuesday.

Larry Wood is a Parkinson's patient. When we met him earlier this year, the disease was taking a toll on his body. He was desperate to find relief from the shaking and sleepless nights.

"I was shaking like a leaf and I went outside and took two draws of the marijuana plant. I had never used it in 66 years and I took two draws of it and about four minutes later, I was as calm as I can be," Wood said. 

This week, Virginia regulators picked five companies to open medical cannabis dispensaries for each of the commonwealth's health service areas. Roanoke is in area three, also serving areas of central Virginia, New River Valley and Danville. 

Dharma Pharmaceuticals hopes to establish a CBD oil processing operation at the vacant mall in Bristol. Virginia residents registered with the Board of Pharmacy will need to have a letter from a doctor to use the substance for treatment.

Virginia NORML has been working to reform medical marijuana laws. They say there are still steps for dispensaries to go through before they're up and running.

"So the applicants will complete the background check process and if they are successful then they will be awarded the permits. They will then have one year to become operational. And the earliest that you might expect to see a facility open to patients will be about nine months after they break ground," said Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director. 

The Virginia Board of Pharmacy say they're not able to comment on the medical cannabis facilities at this time but they did provide information about pharmaceutical processors in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The following information was provided to 10 News by the Virginia Board of Pharmacy:

The Virginia Board of Pharmacy is tasked with regulating the production and dispensing of Cannabidiol (CBD) and THC-A oil. On September 25, 2018 conditional approval, contingent upon criminal background checks, to produce and dispense these oils were issued to:
·    Pharmacann (Health Service Area I)
·    Dalitso (Health Service Area II)
·    Dharma (Health Service Area III)
·    Green Leaf (Health Service Area IV)
·    Columbia Care (Health Service Area V)

Frequently Asked Questions:

What are cannabidiol (CBD) and THC-A oils?  CBD and THC-A oils are oils that are derived from the Cannabis plant. They are minimally psychoactive and can be used to treat or lessen the symptoms of many disease processes.  This is a low-THC oil program.

Why do theses oil require a written certification?
Marijuana remains illegal federally and in Virginia. Because of this, these oils cannot be PRESCRIBED; however, a physician may issue a written certification for the use of the oils. 

Must a physician obtain Board of Pharmacy registration prior to or continuing to issue a written certification for a patient to possess CBD oil or THC-A oil?  
Yes, before a physician can issue or continue issuing written certifications, he or she must register with the Board of Pharmacy. 

Does the law provide for an affirmative defense for possession of CBD oil or THC-A oil?
Yes. 18.2-250.1(C) states, "In any prosecution under this section involving marijuana in the form of cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil as those terms are defined in § 54.1-3408.3 , it shall be an affirmative defense that the individual possessed such oil pursuant to a valid written certification issued by a physician in the course of his professional practice pursuant to § 54.1-3408.3 for treatment or to alleviate the symptoms of (i) the individual's diagnosed condition or disease or (ii) if such individual is the parent or legal guardian of a minor or of an incapacitated adult as defined in § 18.2-369 , such minor's or incapacitated adult's diagnosed condition or disease. If the individual files the valid written certification with the court at least 10 days prior to trial and causes a copy of such written certification to be delivered to the attorney for the Commonwealth, such written certification shall be prima facie evidence that such oil was possessed pursuant to a valid written certification."

What other conditions must be met to assert the affirmative defense?
In addition to being issued a valid written certification from a Board of Pharmacy-registered physician, the patient and, if such patient is a minor or an incapacitated adult as defined in 18.2-369 , such patient's parent or guardian, must obtain registration from the Board of Pharmacy.  The written certification alone does not satisfy the conditions for asserting an affirmative defense for possessing CBD or THC-A oil. 

Who is eligible to possess CBD oil and/or THC-A oil?
Currently, the law restricts the use of either oil to a BOP-registered patient or, if such patient is a minor or an incapacitated adult as defined in 18.2-369 , such patient's parent or guardian for the treatment or alleviation of symptoms of any diagnosed condition or disease determined by the physician to benefit from such use. 

What is a pharmaceutical processor?
A pharmaceutical processor is a facility that has obtained a permit from the Board of Pharmacy pursuant to § 54.1-3408.3 to cultivate Cannabis plants for the production of CBD oil and/or THC-A oil, and to dispense oils to patients registered by the BOP and who have obtained a written certification from a board-registered physician. It is a "vertical" operation meaning that the plants are grown, oils produced, and oils dispensed all from the same facility. Each facility is responsible for the quality of oils produced.

As set forth in §54.1-3442.6 of the Code of Virginia, the Board may issue or renew in any year a maximum of five pharmaceutical processor permits, one for each health service area established by the Board of Health. The application process for pharmaceutical processor permits has three stages: submission of initial application (deadline June 2018), awarding of conditional approval (Fall 2018), and granting of a pharmaceutical processor permit (likely in 2019, after construction and board inspection of the facility). The quality of the applications will determine which applicant(s) will awarded conditional approval. Up to five pharmaceutical processors are expected to go online in 2019.  

What is the tentative timeline for permitting pharmaceutical processors?
·    September 4, 2018 - In-person, but closed session,  meeting of the ad hoc committee of the BOP to discuss scoring of applicants
·    September 25, 2018 - BOP reviewed scoring and identified the applicants who were awarded conditional approval. This conditional approval is contingent upon the results of a criminal background check. 
·    October 5, 2018 - Deadline for fingerprinting and submission of information for criminal background checks
·    October 25, 2018 or November 28, 2018 - Depending upon receipt of all criminal background results, the BOP will review results of the criminal background checks and finalize awarding of pharmaceutical processor conditional approvals
·    It is expected the first pharmaceutical processors will go online in 2019 after construction and board inspection.

When may a patient, parent, or legal guardian apply for BOP registration?  
Patients, parents, and legal guardians may apply now to obtain registration from the BOP.  A patient, parent, or legal guardian must have a written certification issued to them by a physician prior to applying for registration with the Board of Pharmacy and possessing the oils. Here is the link to the BOP website to "Learn More about Patient, Parent/Guardian Registration."

How can a patient locate a registered physician?
A list of physicians registered with the BOP who can issue a written certification to possess CBD and THC-A oils is now searchable on License Lookup  on the BOP website.  When searching, select the "occupation" of "Registered Physician for CBD/THC-A oil".