Regulated medical cannabis oil could be arriving in Manassas as early as next year.
The Virginia Board of Pharmacy has issued conditional permits to five companies to produce and sell medical cannabis oil to people who have received a certificate from a doctor, including a company that plans to open a location in Manassas.
Dalitso LLC was one of the five companies issued a pharmaceutical processor permit on Sept. 25. The board is set to perform background checks to finalize the permits either this month or November. The board expects the facilities will open next year after board inspection.
The five companies were selected from 51 applications. The permits will allow companies to cultivate cannabis plants for production of medical cannabis oils and sell to patients who have a certificate from a doctor, according to the board.
Dalitso is made up of Virginia-based pharmacists, lawyers and real estate professionals partnering with established medical cannabis providers, according to Virginia Cannabis Group, a consulting company that helped Dalitso through the permitting process.
“Our overarching goal is to provide quality patient care and quality medical cannabis to patients in need in our home state,” said Jim Layton, Dalitso’s managing director. “As a pharmacist-owned and driven company, we are passionate about patient care and believe that this patient-first focus will be a key to successfully and safely bring medical cannabis to our Northern Virginia communities.”
In 2015, the General Assembly allowed patients with intractable epilepsy to receive a certification from a doctor to use cannabis oil, although the law didn’t include a way for patients to acquire the oils, according to the board.
Over the next two years, legislators authorized five pharmaceutical processors — one in each Health Service Area — to produce and sell the oils with a Board of Pharmacy permit.
In 2018, legislators changed the law to allow doctors to issue certificates to patients with any diagnosed condition or disease.
The 2018 law is about letting doctors decide about issuing certificates for medical cannabis oil, said Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML, an advocacy nonprofit that aims to reform marijuana laws.
Advocates wanted the state to issue 12 permits, Pedini said. Five facilities are not sufficient to serve the entire state, she noted, but “anywhere is a great place to start.”
Pedini said the regulation will provide patients with peace of mind in the product. “Unless you’re getting a product from a state that is regulated, you’re putting blind faith in the labeling,” Pedini said.
Virginia is catching up with other states, she said. Washington, D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico and 31 states have comprehensive medical marijuana programs, and another 15 states allow the use of medical cannabis oil, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.
The oils do not have an intoxicating effect, Pedini said, adding that patients and doctors can decide to use oils to treat a variety of diseases or disorders, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, arthritis, glaucoma, Crohn's disease, post traumatic stress disorder and others.
“The policy approach is let doctors decide exactly as your doctor does for any other medication,” Pedini said. “You and your doctor make that decision.”
Alexandria resident Tamara Netzel was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2013 when she was a middle school teacher. Multiple sclerosis is a chronic neurological condition that affects the central nervous system, according to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.
The drugs she was taking took a toll on her liver and she experienced liver failure. That and chronic pain led Netzel to stop teaching last year.
“With chronic pain, I don’t think you understand it until you have it,” Netzel said, “because there’s a mental piece to it, as well. It may hurt, but the thought that the pain will never go away can affect your mood and affect how you interact with anything you do.”
After a friend persisted in suggesting medical cannabis oil, Netzel tried it last year.
“It started giving me relief when nothing else did,” Netzel said.
Symptoms from multiple sclerosis progressively get worse, so Netzel strives to work out — something she says the oil helps her do. The oils help relieve pain in her hands and arms “although numbness and lack of dexterity” persist, she said.
“I hope that having the five cannabis oil pharmacies will allow other potential patients to see this as a safe medicine which can benefit their quality of life, too,” Netzel said. “I hope that having the safe and trusted cannabis oil in the commonwealth will maybe allow medical advances to be discovered with cannabis compounds in Virginia’s medical community.”