Aug. 17–Hampton is inching closer to having a medical marijuana dispensary within city limits.
The Hampton Planning Commission voted unanimously Thursday to recommend amending the city’s zoning laws to allow for the production of medical cannabis oil from a potential local dispensary. Cannabis oil is considered nonintoxicating.
The amendments include adding the state’s definition of a “pharmaceutical processor” to current zoning regulations.
A pharmaceutical processor, or dispensary, has a permit from the VirginiaBoard of Pharmacy to cultivate cannabis plants to manufacture cannabis oil for medicinal use, according to the board’s website.
The second proposed zoning revision would allow cannabis oil production in one of six zoning districts in Hampton. These areas are already zoned for manufacturing, mixed business and retail, according to Planning Commission documents.
Some of the zoned districts include areas near Thomas Nelson Drive, sections near the Hampton Golf Course on Butler Farm Road and Magruder Boulevard, and parts of Tidewater Drive, which has a lot of unimproved land, and Potter Lane, officials said.
If approved by the City Council, which could vote on the recommendations as early as September, the amendments would help pave the way for a potential medical marijuana dispensary firm to open its doors.
One such company, Rx Native Pharmaceuticals, is one of dozens bidding for a conditional operating license from the pharmacy board.
The company already has lease rights to a Hampton property at 3130 NASA Drive — a 30,000-square-foot facility where the company could grow as many as 5,200 marijuana plants to process into beneficial oil, creams and capsules for sale.
If Rx Native gains conditional approval, the company would invest as much as $8 million to open the facility and bring as many as 100 new jobs to Hampton, says Chantra Stevenson, its chief operating officer.
Any processor chosen by the state would still have to apply for a city use permit that would require a review and public hearing by the Planning Commission and City Council, city spokesman Frederick Gaskins said in a release.
In March, the General Assembly passed several bills to expand its medical marijuana use laws to allow in-state production, sale and dispensing of medical cannabis oil for patient use. According to the medical journal The Lancet, cannabis oil has been effective in treating such ills as seizures, depression and chronic pain.
Lawmakers also expanded marijuana medical use to include “any diagnosed condition or disease determined by the practitioner to benefit from such use.”
Following the change, the pharmacy board began accepting applications in April from interested parties seeking a conditional permit to establish a pharmaceutical processor in Virginia.
As many as 51 applications have been submitted since, each of which required a $10,000 filing fee.
The board expects sometime this fall to award one conditional license to each of the state’s five health service districts, which are designated by the Virginia Department of Health.
Meanwhile, Hampton is in a district that includes 24 localities around the Peninsula, the Southside, the Middle Peninsula and parts of Northern Neck. As many as 15 applicants, including Rx Native, are vying for the conditional license.
Under Virginia law, practitioners are required to register with the pharmacy board and may only recommend medical cannabis oil and only make written certifications for their patients.
The same law also requires caregivers and patients to register with the board only if they have a written certification from a registered doctor.
As of Friday, a special committee reviewing the applications is now scheduled to meet on Sept. 4 and 5, according to the pharmacy board website.
Several criteria must be met to gain conditional approval, including having financial capacity, not operating a location within 1,000 feet of a school or day care, site security for its staff and the product, and the relevant expertise for production and dispensing.
An announcement of which firms will be awarded a conditional license could come by late September, according to the website.
Vernon Sparks can be reached by phone at 757-247-4832 or on Twitter at @lvernonsparks.
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