BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) — A mother and daughter from Virginia’s capital are in Bristol making history Thursday.
This is something Lisa Smith and her daughter have been fighting for since 2015. Her daughter Haley Smith, who has Dravet Syndrome, made the trek from Richmond to receive the first fill of medical cannabis in the state of Virginia.
“There’s been so many people on this journey so it’s an honor. It’s kind of surreal that it’s happening,” mother Lisa Smith said.
Smith and her daughter Haley are heading back to their home in Richmond, Virginia with the medication they have been longing for.
This was all made possible by Virginia’s first cannabis oil dispensary, Dharma Pharmaceuticals, located in Bristol, Virginia.
“It’s very emotional for us. We say all the time that if Lisa and Haley didn’t fight for this program, Dharma would not exist so it’s an honor and a privilege to be able to provide them the medicine that she needs,” Dharma Pharmaceuticals founder and chief operating officer, Jack Page said.
Haley, who is now 20 years old, has a severe form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome.
“Her first seizure was when she was five months old. She had uncontrolled seizures and we were finally diagnosed when she was at 7 years old,” Smith said.
In 2014, she started lobbying for medical cannabis after she read about the positive effects for people with epilepsy.
“We tried multiple medications, medical diets. She has a device that’s installed a vagus nerve stimulator,” she said. “We exhausted every medical treatment that was available for her condition.”
It was not until she attended the Virginia General Assembly in 2015 that lawmakers were able to see the severity of Haley’s seizures.
Smith said, “We had delegate and a senator both sponsoring bills and we were heard in the senate committee, and Haley had a seizure in committee and that changed a lot of people’s minds.”
Now, they are legally receiving a quality of life that they never thought they would experience.
“It’s humbling to be, that she did that. When people say that you have a child with a disability, it’s a bad thing. It’s not,” Smith said. “She’s helped so many people, just being able to share her– she’s been a blessing.”
Dharma Pharmaceuticals opens Saturday, Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. walk-ins are accepted but appointments are preferred. The dispensary is located at the old Bristol Mall.
“We are growing medical marijuana. We do have high THC level plants that are different from what you are purchasing out on the street from a CBD store. We are not just cannabidiol oil. We do have THC products,” Page said.
Page explained you must have three things before arriving at the dispensary.
“You do have to have a recommendation from your provider. A provider can be a medical doctor, a physician’s assistant or a nurse practitioner. They do have to be registered with the board of pharmacy to be able to recommend the use of cannabis oil. Once you get that recommendation from a provider, you apply to the board of pharmacy for a card. It is a $50 annual registration fee. Once that process if complete, you get a card in the mail,” Page said.