Just a few weeks after opening, Northern Virginia’s first medical marijuana dispensary is fully booked and looking to expand.
Beyond/Hello, operated by husband-and-wife team Gregory and Farzana Kennedy, opened in late November at 8100 Albertstone Circle in the Manassas area of Prince William County. The outlet can not only fill cannabis prescriptions but also grows the marijuana itself on site. So far, Gregory Kennedy told InsideNoVa, the appointment-only dispensary has been almost fully booked.
“We have patients lined up for the next three to four weeks solid; we’re bringing patients in every 10-15 minutes for pharmacist consultations, and we have to have more time slots,” Gregory said. “There’s a balance because we’ve started our growing, our cultivation operation as well, and with the product that we have in process there will be more availability and more variety.”
Medical marijuana has been legal in Virginia only since 2019, and cannabis advocates have called the state’s medical regulations among the most restrictive in the country.
Initially, the state strictly limited the number of dispensaries in any one area. At the urging of Gov. Ralph Northam and other Democrats earlier this year, the General Assembly loosened some of those restrictions. Now, just as Beyond/Hello opens the Northern Virginia region to the medical cannabis industry, Northam is pushing to legalize recreational marijuana use in his last year in office.
“It’s time to legalize marijuana in Virginia,” Northam said in announcing his support last month for a legalization measure. “Our Commonwealth has an opportunity to be the first state in the South to take this step, and we will lead with a focus on equity, public health and public safety.”
Hearings on complete legalization won’t begin until the assembly convenes in January. In the meantime, Gregory Kennedy says he’s already hearing from medical cannabis users in Northern Virginia who are relieved to not have to travel into the District of Columbia, where it’s legal to buy marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes.
The drug is most commonly used in pain-management – where some see it as a healthier alternative to opioid-based treatments – as well as for glaucoma, epilepsy and other illnesses. At Beyond/Hello, clients must first receive a prescription from a physician and then a medical marijuana card from the state pharmacy board before they can book an appointment with the pharmacist.
Dalitso LLC, Beyond/Hello’s parent company, was one of only four applicants in the state to receive conditional approval for a dispensary by the Virginia Board of Pharmacy, and among the first four to get final approval, allowing the company to cultivate and distribute medical cannabis in the state’s Health Service Area II of Northern Virginia. Just last week, Jushi Holdings Inc., a multi-state cannabis operator traded on the Canadian stock exchange, announced it had acquired the final 21% of Dalitso that it didn’t already own. Jushi also owns dispensaries in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Colorado.
Between 2018 and May 2020, Dalitso also retained lobbyist Aaron Lopez and donated money to several General Assembly candidates, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
Farzana Kennedy, Beyond/Hello’s head pharmacist, was the one who first saw an opening to supply medical marijuana in Virginia when discussions around its legalization began in 2015. She received her bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Howard University and has been involved in the push for medical cannabis legalization in Virginia for some time, currently serving as vice president of the Virginia Medical Cannabis Coalition.
The Kennedys ultimately chose the Manassas area because of its relatively affordable commercial space and accessibility from population centers all over Prince William and greater Northern Virginia.
“Now we have the ability to locate patient access points, dispensaries, throughout Northern Virginia and provide really good coverage for the entire Northern Virginia population,” Gregory Kennedy said. He said it was still undecided where the company would set up future locations, but mentioned places such as Sterling, Arlington, Alexandria and Woodbridge.
But ultimately, Kennedy said, wherever they open, there will be people in need who will now have access to medical marijuana, a treatment option that had been out of reach for some previously.
“At no point … has there been any negative sentiment to medical cannabis in Northern Virginia; it’s always been very positive reception,” he added.
“Kind of at the human level, people understand that there are people suffering. There are people who have run out options using traditional medicine or have been over-prescribed medication, especially opioids,” Kennedy said. “People suffer in so many ways, whether through pain, anxiety, depression that they’ve finally seen some relief through medical cannabis, and now they don’t have to go to D.C.”