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Reform Group: Transparency Needed in Medical Marijana Licensing Process

Under Virgina law, CBD oil (cannabidiol) or THC-A oil is not fully legal, but certified patients in possession have an "affirmative defense" against prosecution. (Pixabay)
Under Virgina law, CBD oil (cannabidiol) or THC-A oil is not fully legal, but certified patients in possession have an "affirmative defense" against prosecution. (Pixabay)
September 6, 2018

RICHMOND, Va. – With 51 applicants vying for a chance to snag Virginia's first five medical marijuana licenses, reform groups say it's in everyone's best interest for the process to be open and transparent.

The state panel that will award the Commonwealth's first medical marijuana licenses held a closed door meeting Tuesday to announce it will keep that same process in deciding which companies will win licenses.

Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of the marijuana advocacy group Virginia NORML, says there are unanswered questions about providers coming in from out of state that may have compliance issues that Virginians should know about.

"Consumers have the right to know that the providers who ultimately win these licenses are in fact the best situated to provide their medicine," she states.

The Virginia Board of Pharmacy's executive director says the attorney general provided advice that medical cannabis applications are treated as medical license applications, and are therefore exempt from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

Pedini says despite the restrictive market, there is an upside to seeing so much interest in companies ready to break ground and be the first to build Virginia's medical marijuana industry.

"Ultimately the main goal is to get that medicine into the hands of patients,” she points out. “There are tens of thousands of Virginians who are waiting for access – patients, families who are separated, living in other states who simply want to come home."

However, Pedini worries about possible legal action from losing applicants that might call foul over the private selection process.

The selection committee only gave application scores, and withheld identifying companies by name.

Virginia is among a handful of states in the Southeast with medical cannabis programs, although its restrictions make it far less robust than full-blown medical marijuana setups in states such as California and Colorado.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - VA