- The Washington Times - Friday, October 16, 2020

A former shopping mall in Bristol, Virginia, will host the state’s first medical marijuana dispensary once the shop opens its doors to members of the commonwealth’s legal cannabis program Saturday.

Dharma Pharmaceuticals is set to hold its grand opening this weekend inside the old Bristol Mall, making it the first medical marijuana dispensary to legally operate under Virginia state law.

Virginia is among the majority of states to have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana, or cannabis, but no establishment exists in the commonwealth for customers to buy pot legally before now.

Indeed, Virginia’s nascent medical marijuana laws currently prohibit dispensaries from selling raw, smokeable flowers, or buds, while legalizing instead the sale of cannabis oil-based products.

That means Virginians authorized to use marijuana for medicinal purposes can shop at Dharma soon, although customers will not be able to purchase anything they can put in rolling papers or a pipe.

Virginia legalized medical cannabis to a limited degree in 2017. Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization group, said the state lacked a comprehensive medical law until this year, however.

Thirty-four states have legalized medical marijuana to varying degrees, according to the group, with Virginia being the latest addition as a result of recently expanding qualifying conditions.

Eleven of those states and Washington, D.C., have also legalized the non-medical, or recreational, use of marijuana among adults, and nearly all have systems in place for taxing and selling pot.

Bristol is located in southwest Virginia on the state’s border with Tennessee, where marijuana remains entirely illegal under both state and federal law.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law, but neither the previous nor current presidential administration has interfered with any of the increasing number of statewide systems in place.

Dharma was among just five companies selected by the Virginia Board of Pharmacy in 2018 to begin legally dispense marijuana products under state law. Other shops are expected to open soon.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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