Hampton Roads’ first medical cannabis dispensary will be opening in Portsmouth, city officials announced Wednesday, ending speculation over where a facility would land since the licensees were first identified earlier this fall.
New York-based Columbia Care will open the facility in the spring 2019, a City of Portsmouth news release said. The company declined to say where it would be located.
Portsmouth Marketing Manager Sharon Hoggard said Columbia Care would operate in one of the city’s industrial parks but she had not been informed which one. She added that the project would involve renovation of an existing facility.
Calls and emails seeking additional comment from City Economic Development Director Robert Moore and Mayor John Rowe were not immediately answered.
Columbia CEO Nicholas Vita, in a statement emailed to The Virginian-Pilot, said: “We are excited to begin the process of building out our new facility in Portsmouth and look forward to working with the mayor and local officials to do so …”
The dispensary will initially have around 24 employees, including chemists, scientists, horticulturalists and dispensers, the city said. At the facility, CBD and THC-A oil, capsules and creams will be produced and dispensed for state-registered patients.
“Columbia Care chose Portsmouth for its Virginia headquarters because of the city’s access to the interstate and because of its readily available industrial space,” Rowe said in the release.
Columbia is one of five companies that have been granted licenses by the Virginia Board of Pharmacy to operate medical dispensaries. By law, the medical cannabis products can only be distributed from these facilities.
Columbia is one of three out-of-state companies that were awarded licenses, joining Maryland-based Green Leaf Medical and Illinois-based Pharmacann, which has since been sold. The other two — Dalitso and Dharma Pharmaceuticals — are based in Virginia.
Of the five, only Columbia had not announced the area or site where it intended to open a facility.
Columbia Care, which was recently valued at $1.35 billion, operates dispensaries in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, California, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida, Puerto Rico and Washington.
Although the process has moved steadily forward with the five companies, other license applicants have charged that the board’s process was not transparent. There were 51 applicants for the five licenses — 15 of them for the Hampton Roads facility. The five licensees get a first crack at the state’s medical cannabis industry, positioning the companies for a more lucrative opportunity if recreational use is legalized in the state.
One Chesapeake company and license applicant, Chesapeake Bay Therapeutics, submitted a protest to pharmacy board Executive Director Caroline Juran on Oct. 5. The protest outlined what it called “errors” in the board’s evaluation process and called for a suspension of the Columbia contract while the protest was reviewed.
Several applicants said the board was not forthcoming in providing answers to questions and was not transparent in how it decided which companies would be granted conditional approval.
The board has dismissed the protest.
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