Medical cannabis operation to sprout in Manchester

CBD oil is derived from the marijuana plant.

A Maryland-based company has chosen South Richmond as the site of one of Virginia’s first medical cannabis oil dispensaries.

Green Leaf Medical, which on Tuesday was awarded conditional approval for one of five coveted licenses from the Virginia Board of Pharmacy to open a medical cannabidiol (CBD) oil-processing facility, will be leasing 50,000 square feet in an undisclosed location in Manchester.

The facility would house a growing operation and processing, as well as retail. It will produce oils that use one of the nonpsychoactive components of marijuana, to be consumed by patients with a prescription from a doctor.

Green Leaf CEO Philip Goldberg said the company hopes to have the lease in place within nine months.

“We try to be really transparent, but we told the landlord we would keep him out of it for now,” Goldberg said.

The projected cost of development for the facility is $16 million. Eventually, it will employ 75-100 workers.

The company, which is based in Frederick, Maryland, and already has established similar facilities in Maryland, Ohio and Pennsylvania, was awarded the conditional license to be the lone operator in the state Health Service Area 4. That area encompasses 27 counties and six cities, including Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover counties; and the cities of Richmond, Petersburg, Hopewell and Colonial Heights.

The state board awarded only one such license in each health area.

Tom Papa (BizSense file photo)

Virginia’s Board of Pharmacy fielded 51 applications from entities vying for the five licenses. Among the applicants was a group that included local real estate developer Tom Papa.

“We know that many of these other competitors are very capable,” Goldberg said. “The board had a hard decision. Virginia moved really fast in getting this program up and running. That’s evidence they’re working hard to make sure patients have access to cannabis medicine as fast as possible.”

Goldberg said the location of the Manchester site will be revealed in time because the facility will house a retail component.

“The cannabis industry is a combination of farming, technology, manufacturing and retail,” Goldberg said, each of which would be present in the Richmond facility.

Of the facility’s retail area, Goldberg said, “It’s going to look like an Apple store combined with a Starbucks.”

Having won the initial selection, Green Leaf now must go through a background check before receiving final approval. Once approved, the state’s process calls for the company to open its Manchester facility within a year.

In addition to vials of oils, Goldberg said the Richmond site will produce other products that incorporate the oils, such as capsules, creams, pain patches, and if permitted by the state, inhalable vapor cartridges. Goldberg said his company is working on the idea of a CBD inhaler.

The rise of CBD processing in Virginia was made possible by the General Assembly’s passage this year of House Bill 1251, which allows for Virginians to obtain the oils if properly prescribed by their physicians. Gov. Ralph Northam signed it into law and called for the establishment of the five dispensaries.

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