ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) By the end of next year, Virginia could have a handful of facilities processing and dispensing medical marijuana. And it's possible two of them will be located in western Virginia.
The Virginia Board of Pharmacy is now reviewing 51 applications for facilities across the state. Under legislation that received bipartisan support in the General Assembly, the board will select one provider for each of the state's five health service areas.
The pharmaceutical processors will cultivate the marijuana plants under strict controls, and dispense cannabis oil to patients who have a diagnosed condition and a doctor's recommendation.
Katie Clifton is an acupuncturist, and Roanoke Chapter Leader for NORML, a group that works to reform marijuana laws.
"I think it's really really exciting and It's also, you know, it's about time," Clifton told WDBJ7.
She was interested in making an application to become the region's first medical marijuana processor, but quickly realized it would be difficult for a small company to comply with the state's regulations.
Despite that she is excited that more Virginians will have access to medical marijuana from local processors.
"They are going to be very well-regulated," Clifton said. "And we are going to know from the seed to when it goes out of the shop how it's been processed and where it's from. And that's wonderful. "
The health service areas that includes the Roanoke and New River Valleys, southside and far southwest Virginia has nine applications, including one that would occupy a former JCPenney building in Bristol.
We're expecting the Board of Pharmacy to choose the five winning proposals in September. Those companies will then have a year to get their operations up and running.