Dispensaries Prepare to Sell Medical Cannabis in West Virginia
In early February, the West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis (OMC) announced the successful applicants to receive a medical cannabis dispensary permit.
The OMC posted the full list of dispensary permit holders on its website, which consisted of Ohio-based medical cannabis dispensary Terrasana Cannabis Co. and West Virginia-based medical cannabis dispensary Harvest Care Medical.
Terrasana applied to receive six dispensary permits at the beginning of this year and was awarded all six. The dispensary business was also granted a cultivation and processing license, said William Kedia, Terrasana Cannabis founder and CEO.
Both dispensaries are making changes and finalizing a game plan in preparation for the expansion.
« The hiring process will not start until we start construction, just because of the timeline, » Kedia said. « I don’t want people waiting on us to do the project for three to five months until it’s finalized. So, as we get to those time points in our game plan, we will hire appropriately and train everyone so everyone is on the same page and ready to go the minute we get the dispensaries, growing and processing facilities all open at the same time. »
As for Harvest Care Medical, who won ten dispensary permits, along with cultivation and processing permits, the company is in the process of locking in its properties and is working with architects, engineers and general contractors, said Chief Development Officer Dustin Freas.
Although both dispensaries are getting ready for the expansion, they are unsure when their dispensary, cultivation and processing sites will officially open.
« Our plan is to have all six built out and open later this year, but between COVID and the wintertime, getting contractors to do the build-out has been a challenge, » Kedia said. « And now you have this mass influx of construction projects in West Virginia with everyone trying to build their dispensaries and processing centers, so finding good quality contractors to complete the project in a timely fashion is going to be a challenge. »
Harvest Care Medical is facing a similar challenge.
« We’re in the middle of a pandemic, so it’s not exactly business as usual, » Freas said. « Ordering supplies and equipment that you need could be on backorder, or a construction crew could get COVID, you know? »
Freas said the dispensary must have its grow site operational within six months from the day of the award with one 90-day extension, meaning he thinks that most cultivators who want to be the first to market patient access could have plants propagated by either May or June.
Both Freas and Kedia said one of the biggest challenges would be making sure the product is available and ready for sale when dispensaries open.
« There is going to be a time lag between when cultivating facilities are constructed and when products are available, » Kedia said. « So, you plant the seed, and then by the time you actually harvest and market the products, it’s about a 10-12 week process. So, you don’t want to have the dispensary open, and then they have the expectation of having the product, and you don’t have anything on the shelves, so there’s a bit of juggling we are going to have to do to make sure this all lines up correctly. »
Additionally, one of the areas that Freas is trying to lobby and work hard on is increasing the patient count in the state, he said.
« There are currently 85 patients registered and certified for cannabis in the entire state of West Virginia right now, » Freas said. « And they’re not really letting doctors market the service, and the state’s not really putting any money behind it, but this isn’t uncommon. »
Freas said that he’s not indicating that West Virginia is dropping the ball, but it creates a back-end concern when opening ten dispensaries and the patient count is low.
However, Bill Freas, Harvest Care Medical CEO and Dustin’s father said that the cannabis commission in West Virginia has been more supportive than any other state they’ve worked with.
« They really want this to succeed, » Bill said. « They are working with the people that run the applications, and they’re very receptive, and because of that, I think it’s going to be a lot less pain to get to market. »
Aside from challenges, Freas and Kedia said they are excited to become part of the West Virginia market.
Kedia, who has been a physician for the last 20 years in Ohio, said his first-hand experience with the opioid epidemic was challenging. It initially led him to want to be part of the medical cannabis market in Ohio.
« I really felt then, and I feel even more strongly now, that cannabis and medical cannabis, specifically, is a fantastic alternative to our opioid and pain medication our patients depend on, » Kedia said. « And I do think having this alternative is better for patients and better for patients care, and most importantly, better for the quality of life. So, that’s where I get excited because I can now do what I did for patients in Ohio for patients in other states like West Virginia. »
Kedia’s number one goal with the expansion is to help people, he said.
« Yes, we need to make money to keep places open, we all have bills to pay, our company has bills to pay, but all that aside, our primary focus has to be centered around patients and their well being, and that is more important to me than anything else, » he said.
And Freas and his father, Bill, have similar expectations and goals for Harvest Care Medical and West Virginia patients.
« Our number one goal is to get quality medical cannabis medicine to the residents of West Virginia as quickly and as effectively as possible, » Bill said. « West Virginia has a lot of challenges. One of the big ones is their opioid crisis. We believe that medical cannabis can be a real help. With all the data supporting it, we’re seeing a real difference in reducing the use of opioids and transitioning people, and we’re very committed to helping people. »