Virginia regulators gave final approval Wednesday to four of five companies working to open the state’s first medical cannabis oil dispensaries, but left a decision on a planned dispensary in Bristol unresolved over an eleventh-hour request to move it to a different location.
The Virginia Board of Pharmacy didn’t have enough members to vote on the Bristol dispensary because one member, Marion pharmacist Kristopher Ratliff, had to recuse himself because he had written a letter of recommendation for Dharma Pharmaceuticals, the company that received initial approval to open a dispensary in the former Bristol Mall.
Details on Dharma’s alternative location were not immediately clear. A board staff member said the companies’ requests to move their dispensaries were being kept confidential along with all other application records.
Bristol officials had asked Dharma to consider moving its planned dispensary because it wouldn’t mix well with the casino that resort developers are pushing to build at the same mall. The board will reconsider the Bristol decision next month.
The board denied a similar relocation request from Dalitso LLC, a company that received conditional approval to open a dispensary in Northern Virginia. Dalitso was planning to construct a new building in Manassas, but asked to move its facility to an existing building in Gainesville in western Prince William County in order to open a few months earlier.
Earlier this year, the board reviewed 51 applications for five licenses it planned to award to companies hoping to produce and sell CBD and THC-A oils for medical use. The oils are derived from marijuana plants but don’t give users the high that comes with smoking pot.
Several board members said they felt it would be inappropriate to let the winning applicants change a key element of their business plan after the fact when 46 other applications were rejected.
“I think that approving a change in venue ... might be considered unfair to other parties that were not awarded the dispensary,” said board member Cheryl Nelson.
Board member James Jenkins Jr. disagreed, saying allowing the location change was simply helping a business get its products to Virginians sooner.
“It’s an improved benefit to the community,” Jenkins said.
In September, the board gave conditional approval to five medical cannabis ventures, one in each of the state’s five health service areas.
The board held a closed session for almost an hour before the discussion about the licenses, saying it wanted to confer with lawyers about an undisclosed issue.
The dispensaries are expected to open next year. Patients will only be allowed to purchase the oils after getting permission from a doctor and registering with the board.