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Virginia Keeping Medical Marijuana Licensing Process Hidden

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The Virginia Board of Pharmacy has announced that the medical marijuana license application review process will be kept confidential. The board has 51 applications to consider. The meeting began in a closed-door setting but was opened up only to announce that the process will be kept hidden.

The first set of dispensaries will only be permitted to produce THCA and CBD oils, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Neither oil will induce a high. Initial scores of the applications have been released. The companies’ names were kept confidential by only announcing the scores by an assigned number instead.

Pharmacy Board Chairman Rafael Saenz said, “The committee has decided to consider the applications in closed session.”

Conditional approvals could be determined this month. If the law expands to allow more medical marijuana products, or full medical marijuana, these dispensaries will have an advantage to being considered first for additional/new licensing.

The applications for medical marijuana dispensaries are being treated like medical license applications. This means that they are exempt from Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act, even when final determinations are made.

Executive Director of the Board of Pharmacy, Caroline Juran, said, “They can only be FOIA’d by the applicant.”

Despite the privacy being used by regulators, some applicants have sought out media coverage disclosing their business plans.

Jenn Michelle Pedini of Virginia NORML said, “It is in the best interests of patients, of consumers, for there to be transparency throughout this process. Patients deserve to know who is making their medicine, if that company has been operational in other states, if they have been compliant, if they have had to stop production or have been cited for other issues.”

Pedini also speculates that the closed process may help prevent lawsuits being filed by applicants that are not chosen.

She said, “We see this state after state. Licenses are awarded and then the lawsuits begin.”

The state has not given exact dates when the final decisions on licenses will be issued.