On October 2, the Virginia Board of Pharmacy posted a general notice indicating that it had voted to rescind the request for applications (RFA) for a Pharmaceutical Processor license in Health Service Area I. The RFA will now be conducted by the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority (the CCA) sometime after it assumes oversight of the state’s medical cannabis program on January 1, 2024.

Medical cannabis continues to be the only legal market for cannabis in Virginia, despite the fact that the Commonwealth legalized personal possession, cultivation, and sharing of cannabis for all adults in 2021. As we have previously reported, the state’s legislature failed to reenact a bill permitting the sale of cannabis to all adults over 21. Thus, the state’s medical cannabis dispensaries, also known as pharmaceutical processors, continue to be the only avenue for legal sales in the Commonwealth. Under Virginia’s pharmaceutical processor program, enacted in 2017, the Commonwealth was divided into five “health service areas” (HSAs), with one license in each HSA awarded to a single entity.

Currently, each licensee is permitted to cultivate, manufacture, and dispense medical cannabis to qualified patients from one location and can operate an additional five dispensaries at separate locations. Each additional dispensary must be permitted by the board, and all locations must be within the same HSA. Pharmaceutical processors are permitted to wholesale cannabis and cannabis products among themselves.

PharmaCann (later acquired by MedMen) was initially awarded a conditional license in HSA I, which covers counties from the Shenandoah to Fairfax regions. PharmaCann’s conditional approval was rescinded when the company failed to complete construction of its facility within the specified amount of time. The Board of Pharmacy issued a new RFA for HSA I in September 2020, but review of the applications was halted by the court in 2021, pending PharmaCann’s appeal. Although the Board of Pharmacy was ultimately successful in the Virginia Court of Appeals, and PharmaCann has not appealed that decision, the board has now decided that it will not be able to issue a license for HSA I prior to January 1, 2024, which is when the CCA is slated to assume oversight of the Commonwealth’s medical cannabis program. Instead, the RFA for HSA I will be conducted by the CCA after it assumes control.

It is not clear when the CCA will issue a new RFA, but interested parties are advised to begin preparing for the process now. Reach out to Troutman Pepper’s Cannabis Team if you have questions or are interested in pursuing an application for HSA I.

Our Cannabis Practice provides advice on issues related to applicable federal and state law. Marijuana remains an illegal controlled substance under federal law.