The reviewing process to fill Virginia’s first five medical marijuana licenses has begun, with 51 applications currently being looked over by a provisional panel of state regulators that include people with backgrounds in medical licensing, economic development, and legal practice. While this may be big news for the Commonwealth that has started to relax laws on medical cannabis, the review process has been kept confidential, with the applicants remaining nameless to the public.
During the closed door discussion in an office park in Henrico County on Tuesday, the panel began sifting through stacks upon stacks of application paperwork to decide who will fill the slots allotted for the first cannabis oil dispensaries. After about 30 minutes, a Virginia Board of Pharmacy committee was said to have reopened the meeting to the public, but only to announce that the application review process, which may take up to two days, will be kept confidential.
“The committee has decided to consider the applications in closed session,” said pharmacy board Chairman Rafael Saenz, who is heading the committee, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
In this inaugural business competition in the Commonwealth, Virginia-based entrepreneurs are going toe-to-toe with more established national players in the medical cannabis industry. The first wave of dispensaries will produce only CBD (cannabidiol) or THC-A (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) oil, both said by medical professionals to have therapeutic benefits without the psychoactive “high” that comes with smoking or ingesting the drug.
Applicants who receive conditional approval to open a dispensary will lay the groundwork for establishing the business infrastructure in the state, which could grow if Virginia lawmakers take further action to unrestrict the Commonwealth’s laws governing access to drugs, whether medically or recreationally.
As of now, the applicants undergoing to process will remain nameless, being treated as medical license applications, which are exempt from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests even after a final decision is made.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in June that they had approved a CBD product designed to treat severe epilepsy. Although some of the claims about the products have not been fully verified by the federal agency, proponents say the oils help relieve pain, inflammation, muscle spasms, and nausea in ailing patients.
Under Virginia law, the products are not fully legal, but certified patients who possess cannabis oils for medical reasons have an “affirmative defense” against prosecution.