BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) – After almost a year of working with the Commonwealth’s Board of Pharmacy, Dharma Pharmaceuticals has received the first pharmaceutical processor permit in the state of Virginia for medical marijuana.
“We’re proud to be awarded the first pharmaceutical processor license in the state of Virginia and we are super excited to begin serving patients,” said Chief Operating Officer Jack Page.
Dharma owners hope seeds will be planted within the next 30 days. Once the plant is grown- it will be tested by a third-party lab before it can be dispensed to patients- meaning customers could be tugging on the doors of the old JC Penny at the Bristol Mall as early as this summer.
“We are ready to begin cultivation so we can deliver medication to patients as soon as we can,” said Chief Executive Officer Shanna Berry.
For security reasons, Dharma owners wouldn’t allow our camera past what will be the waiting room and employee entrance.
“We have to maintain security of the plants and all of the final products to make sure that we do not have an issue with diversion,” says Pharmacist in Charge Michael Johnson.
Johnson says the cannabis-based medicine will be specific to different conditions.
“We’ll be working with patients to determine what each patient needs and how we can provide that medication to them,” said Johnson.
And if you’re in the state of Virginia, providers, and patients can already start applying to refer or receive treatment on the company’s website.
“The practitioner has to register with the board of pharmacy then they can issue a recommendation to the patient who sends that recommendation into the board of pharmacy who then, in turn, sends back a medical card that will allow them to enter our facility,” said Page.
Dharma owners hope they’ll do more than heal people. They hope their business will help Bristol Virginia make it through the city’s current economic struggles.
“We are Southwest Virginians ourselves so it’s very important to have patients come from outside of our region to Bristol and we think the economic impact of those people coming into the region will exceed what we are doing just on medication sales,” said Berry.
They also hope their products can aid in the opioid epidemic the region is facing.
“Given the circumstances and the epidemic that we’re facing, we know that cannabis is a good alternative to opioid use,” said Berry. “We do find in areas where cannabis medications are available there’s as much as a 25-35% decrease in opioid use.”
Virginia’s first licensed medical cannabis facility may be just a short walk from the Tennessee line, but Tennesseans won’t be able to get treatment.
The owners did say they encourage Tennesseans to reach out to their lawmakers asking for legalization of medical cannabis.
On Friday, we reported that Dharma underwent its final inspection by the state.