The long-awaited Opening Day for the Virginia medical cannabis market arrived Oct. 17 with patients congregating in the city of Bristol to purchase products from Dharma Pharmaceuticals.
“It was overwhelming,” COO Jack Page said. “And, honestly, it was just truly emotional. We’ve been working seven days a week for two and a half years to get this thing up and running, and to finally actually see patients and see our hard work and money that we invested was pretty amazing.”
Currently, Dharma is operating out of a retrofitted former JCPenney building, part of a larger mall facility. A $150-million resort casino is slated to occupy that property, however, so Page and the Dharma team are designing a new space about 20 miles down the road. It’s an example of some of the unique real estate hurdles that can accompany any new business opening—and certainly cannabis businesses working to develop a new marketplace.
It’s been a long road since legislators approved the medical cannabis plan several years ago, and Page said that the opportunity to open the first retail storefront in the commonwealth has been a critical stepping stone to Dharma’s plans for success.
“We are just absolutely thrilled to share this opening of the Virginia medical cannabis program with all of our patients across the commonwealth,” Virginia Medical Cannabis Coalition Executive Director Katie Hellebush said.
The state gave Dharma the green light to open on Oct. 13, so Page and his team reached out to some of their locally based pre-registered patients for a soft opening Oct. 14 to work out any last-minute operational and logistics issues. From there, they looked forward to a busy Opening Day.
“We're seeing people from all across the state,” Page said. “It's nice to see that Southwest Virginia, which is usually an afterthought, has kind of risen to the top and people are coming across the state, seeing a part of the state that they've never even been to before. We’re driving some economic tourism to our area.”
HSA III is the largest Health Service Area of the five by pure geographic reach, including more than two dozen counties.
The other active licensees include: Dalitso (Jushi Holdings), Green Leaf Medical of Virginia and Columbia Care.
“Virginia is a very large marketplace in terms of our rural and urban areas,” Hellebush said. “We’re looking for innovative ideas and making sure we’re able to serve everyone.”