Going green: Staunton to begin growing and selling medical cannabis this year

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PharmaCann has already built multiple medical marijuana dispensaries across the nation, including in Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and this one in Hamptonburgh, New York. Courtesy PharmaCann PharmaCann has already built multiple medical marijuana dispensaries across the nation, including in Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and this one in Hamptonburgh, New York. Courtesy PharmaCann

While marijuana use has become more mainstream in recent years (a 2017 survey by Marist College found there are almost as many marijuana users as cigarette smokers in the U.S., and most are parents), Virginia has been behind the curve in legalization. But the state did legalize cannabis oils this year, and now Staunton, located 45 minutes away from Charlottesville, will soon be able to grow and sell its own.

“I’m confident there will be plants growing before the end of next year,” says Jeremy Unruh, director of public and regulatory affairs at PharmaCann. The Illinois-based medical cannabis company was one of five applicants recently chosen by the Virginia Board of Pharmacy to grow, process, and dispense medical cannabis in the state, and it will soon set up shop in Staunton.

Patients with a prescription will be able to buy CBD and THC-A oils, which help alleviate pain and calm the nervous system, from the dispensary proposed at the Green Hills Industrial Park. With a statewide cap on THC levels at 5 percent, Unruh says the products won’t be “euphoria-inducing” for most people.

Staunton mayor Carolyn Dull calls the soon-to-be medical cannabis facility “a win-win for the community,” because it’ll create about 30 jobs, drive economic development, and help sick people—such as those with uncontrollable seizures who often rely on CBD oil, and who have prescriptions for it, but have no access to pharmacies where they can get it.

“That right there is enough for me,” Dull says. And though she doesn’t currently use medical marijuana, Dull says she “wouldn’t hesitate if I had a condition that would benefit from me using it.”

The mayor hasn’t heard from anyone in opposition to the cultivation of the devil’s lettuce in their town.

“Medical cannabis is not anything to be afraid of or worried about,” she says.

Some people in Charlottesville have known that for a while.

Shelves of CBD balms, capsules, oils, gummies, and teas are on display in a glass case at Rebecca’s Natural Food, where employees at the Barracks Road store have sold CBD-enhanced products for about four years. Rebecca’s now sells more than 20 varieties of edible and topical products ranging in price from $20 to more than $100.

Because these products have less than 0.3 percent THC—the legal definition of hemp—they don’t require a prescription, and are not monitored by the Food and Drug Administration. And with such low levels, they also aren’t euphoria-inducing.

Susan Dunlap, a certified health counselor and nutrition information specialist who works at Rebecca’s, says her customers—who must be 18 or older—mostly use the products for pain, sleep issues, stress, and anxiety.

“However, because CBD is a balancer in the body, it really affects every organ in the system,” she says, adding that customers have seen great results from the products sold at Rebecca’s.

“It is literally flying off the shelves,” says Dunlap. “Every time we order, we have to order more.”

What is it?

CBD, technically named cannabidiol, is one of approximately 100 cannabinoids found in marijuana. THC, its psychoactive ingredient, is also a cannabinoid, and it begins as the non-intoxicating compound THC-A. This is why you won’t get high off CBD and THC-A oils.

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