Chesterfield County rejects permit for cannabis dispensary in Midlothian

Green Leaf Medical, which is the state-sanctioned medical cannabis provider for the Richmond region, operates its Virginia homebase in Richmond, where it grows and sells marijuana. (BizSense file photos)

Efforts to open a marijuana dispensary in Midlothian have been stymied by the Chesterfield government.

The county recently rejected a building permit for Green Leaf Medical’s planned dispensary at 11601 Midlothian Turnpike, which is a former T-Mobile store near Chesterfield Towne Center. The county’s argument is that it can’t approve the permit because cannabis is illegal on the federal level.

Phil Goldberg, president of Green Leaf (stylized “gLeaf”), said the county’s move has put the project on hold for the time being while it appeals the decision. The company, which is the only state-sanctioned seller of medical marijuana in the Richmond region, already operates two other dispensaries locally: one in the city of Richmond and one in Henrico County.

Green Leaf’s appeal is slated to be heard by the Board of Zoning Appeals in early November. The board will consider whether to uphold county staff’s decision on the matter.

Goldberg said he was hopeful Green Leaf would be able to secure the permit and the project would be able to move forward.

“Assuming that gets worked out in the next six weeks, we’re probably looking at a late February opening,” Goldberg said in an interview this week. “They have been receptive (to our subsequent discussion), but that doesn’t mean they’ll change their minds.”

Though Virginia has legalized the use of medical marijuana as well as recreational marijuana, Deputy County Administrator Jesse Smith said in an interview Monday that staff determined that the federal illegality of cannabis prevents Chesterfield from approving a building permit for a business that intends to sell marijuana in the county.

“Because marijuana is not legal on the federal level, we don’t have the ability to approve it,” Smith said. “From a land-use and zoning perspective, there isn’t a path forward for us.”

Smith reiterated the same argument made in the Aug. 10 letter he penned to deny the requested permit, which cited deference to federal law.

Chesterfield County recently rejected a building permit sought by medical cannabis provider Green Leaf Medical for its planned Midlothian dispensary, a former T-Mobile store near Chesterfield Towne Center.

“It is our understanding that (Green Leaf) intends to use this store to dispense marijuana,” Smith wrote in his letter. “We are unable to continue processing this permit as the proposed use is currently illegal under federal law and not permitted by the Chesterfield County Code.”

A few weeks later, Green Leaf’s attorney Bernard Goodman of Virginia law firm Dunlap Bennett, and Ludwig in a letter disputed the basis of the county’s decision and asked that the decision be reversed. He argued the county must operate in a manner consistent with state law, which permits the sales and use of medical cannabis as well as the use (but not sale) of recreational marijuana.

“Virginia Code §54.1-3442.6 allows (medical cannabis operators) to obtain permits for the purposes of the production and dispensing of cannabis products. Moreover, the possession of marijuana for up to one ounce has been decriminalized,” Goodman wrote in the Sept. 1 letter. “Chesterfield County’s decision to reject Green Leaf’s permit, ostensibly based on the federal Controlled Substances Act, fails to remain in lockstep with the rest of the Commonwealth. The County has cited no local ordinance to support its decision, and its decision stands explicitly in conflict with Virginia state law.”

The Green Leaf appeal would be the second cannabis-related case heard by the Board of Zoning Appeals since recreational cannabis was legalized in Virginia in July 2021, Smith said.

A Chester CBD store was recently hit with a zoning violation notice because it operated a bring-your-own marijuana lounge on its premises. Smith said the board upheld the determination when it considered the store’s appeal in September, and that the store no longer offers the marijuana lounge.

“The climate has been changing and everyone is trying to figure out what it means,” Smith said.

Green Leaf had hoped to open the Midlothian dispensary this year.

The company’s planned Carytown outpost (which carries the branding of Green Leaf parent company Columbia Care’s retail brand Cannabist) is set to open later this month pending an inspection from state regulators.

Goldberg said construction is underway on a former Burger King in Colonial Heights for a dispensary that’s planned to open early next year.

Green Leaf Medical, which is the state-sanctioned medical cannabis provider for the Richmond region, operates its Virginia homebase in Richmond, where it grows and sells marijuana. (BizSense file photos)

Efforts to open a marijuana dispensary in Midlothian have been stymied by the Chesterfield government.

The county recently rejected a building permit for Green Leaf Medical’s planned dispensary at 11601 Midlothian Turnpike, which is a former T-Mobile store near Chesterfield Towne Center. The county’s argument is that it can’t approve the permit because cannabis is illegal on the federal level.

Phil Goldberg, president of Green Leaf (stylized “gLeaf”), said the county’s move has put the project on hold for the time being while it appeals the decision. The company, which is the only state-sanctioned seller of medical marijuana in the Richmond region, already operates two other dispensaries locally: one in the city of Richmond and one in Henrico County.

Green Leaf’s appeal is slated to be heard by the Board of Zoning Appeals in early November. The board will consider whether to uphold county staff’s decision on the matter.

Goldberg said he was hopeful Green Leaf would be able to secure the permit and the project would be able to move forward.

“Assuming that gets worked out in the next six weeks, we’re probably looking at a late February opening,” Goldberg said in an interview this week. “They have been receptive (to our subsequent discussion), but that doesn’t mean they’ll change their minds.”

Though Virginia has legalized the use of medical marijuana as well as recreational marijuana, Deputy County Administrator Jesse Smith said in an interview Monday that staff determined that the federal illegality of cannabis prevents Chesterfield from approving a building permit for a business that intends to sell marijuana in the county.

“Because marijuana is not legal on the federal level, we don’t have the ability to approve it,” Smith said. “From a land-use and zoning perspective, there isn’t a path forward for us.”

Smith reiterated the same argument made in the Aug. 10 letter he penned to deny the requested permit, which cited deference to federal law.

Chesterfield County recently rejected a building permit sought by medical cannabis provider Green Leaf Medical for its planned Midlothian dispensary, a former T-Mobile store near Chesterfield Towne Center.

“It is our understanding that (Green Leaf) intends to use this store to dispense marijuana,” Smith wrote in his letter. “We are unable to continue processing this permit as the proposed use is currently illegal under federal law and not permitted by the Chesterfield County Code.”

A few weeks later, Green Leaf’s attorney Bernard Goodman of Virginia law firm Dunlap Bennett, and Ludwig in a letter disputed the basis of the county’s decision and asked that the decision be reversed. He argued the county must operate in a manner consistent with state law, which permits the sales and use of medical cannabis as well as the use (but not sale) of recreational marijuana.

“Virginia Code §54.1-3442.6 allows (medical cannabis operators) to obtain permits for the purposes of the production and dispensing of cannabis products. Moreover, the possession of marijuana for up to one ounce has been decriminalized,” Goodman wrote in the Sept. 1 letter. “Chesterfield County’s decision to reject Green Leaf’s permit, ostensibly based on the federal Controlled Substances Act, fails to remain in lockstep with the rest of the Commonwealth. The County has cited no local ordinance to support its decision, and its decision stands explicitly in conflict with Virginia state law.”

The Green Leaf appeal would be the second cannabis-related case heard by the Board of Zoning Appeals since recreational cannabis was legalized in Virginia in July 2021, Smith said.

A Chester CBD store was recently hit with a zoning violation notice because it operated a bring-your-own marijuana lounge on its premises. Smith said the board upheld the determination when it considered the store’s appeal in September, and that the store no longer offers the marijuana lounge.

“The climate has been changing and everyone is trying to figure out what it means,” Smith said.

Green Leaf had hoped to open the Midlothian dispensary this year.

The company’s planned Carytown outpost (which carries the branding of Green Leaf parent company Columbia Care’s retail brand Cannabist) is set to open later this month pending an inspection from state regulators.

Goldberg said construction is underway on a former Burger King in Colonial Heights for a dispensary that’s planned to open early next year.

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Justin Reynolds
Justin Reynolds
1 month ago

Why is Chesterfield anti-business? Given how much Chesterfield needs business taxes to offset their residential property tax this seems like a poor decision based on fear mongering.

Zach Rugar
Zach Rugar
1 month ago

Wow Chesterfield’s local government is full of a bunch of losers. Guess Colonial Heights will have no problem taking away some of your potential business from you.

Last edited 1 month ago by Zach Rugar
Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
1 month ago

And here I thought Chesterfield, of all places, would be supportive of State’s rights over Federal law.

Jackson Joyner
Jackson Joyner
1 month ago

I suspect this has more to do with bowing down to Youngkin, who has made no secret he disapproves of Cannabis legalization.

JORDAN TUCKER
JORDAN TUCKER
1 month ago
Reply to  Jackson Joyner

Highly doubtful.
The reason is stated in the article and it is a legitimate one. Things will come up and get worked out. Everyone in the state is in uncharted waters

Eli Shadrach
Eli Shadrach
1 month ago

What is wrong with these guys. There are multiple dispensaries 10 minutes across the Potomac from the DEA headquarters up in NoVA, they don’t care. The war on weed is over and weed won. All this is doing is keeping a tenant out of a dying shopping center and driving commerce to Richmond or Henrico.

karl hott
karl hott
1 month ago

A win for unlicensed Chesterfield cannabis retailers.

Craig Davis
Craig Davis
1 month ago

City of Richmond is open for business! Chesterfield folks can drive right on into yjr City for GLeaf’s Manchester store and then stop for some snacks on their way home!

Ryan Encinas
Ryan Encinas
1 month ago

I’m surprised they wouldn’t approve it since they let everything else just come in and build in chesterfield. Oh wait it’s not a apartment/townhouse, neighborhood or storage facility.