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Virginia Patients Upset With High Costs, Less Availability Of Medical Marijuana

The medical marijuana industry in Virginia is nearing completion of one year of sales and as the one-year anniversary approaches, many patients have raised issues with the long periods of time required to register with the state to buy marijuana for medical purposes.

Patients also complained about the high prices they have to pay once the marijuana is made available at the select dispensaries.

The Virginia state medical marijuana program is at present the only legal way for patients to procure marijuana. It was in October 2020 that four medical dispensaries, affiliated to the state, started functioning for patients.

If a patient wants to purchase at the dispensary he/she requires a recommendation from the doctor and then they must apply for a medical marijuana card from the state. While finding a doctor to give the recommendation is relatively easy, patients find the next step of applying for medical marijuana card very time taking.

Tamara Netzel, who runs a Facebook group for medical marijuana patients in Virginia said that the process of the state reviewing the medical marijuana application and issuing a card takes more than a month and therefore can be quite frustrating.

Netzel said, "If a doctor can turn around a letter right away within 30 minutes, why does it take six weeks for the Virginia Board of Pharmacy to send a paper card?"

Commenting on the issues, a spokeswoman for the Board of Pharmacy, Diane Powers, said the board always makes effort to process the applications within a month and with more and more people applying for cards, the Board plans to employ more people to clear the backlog.

The Virginia Board of Pharmacy plans to have an online application portal for medical marijuana permits by early 2022, which is expected to speed up the process.

It is not just the patients but the suppliers who have expressed disappointment at the less number of patients who can purchase marijuana due to all the technical difficulties.

Ngiste Abebe, vice president of public policy at Columbia Care, a multi-state operator that sells medical cannabis, said, "You can go to a doctor and get a prescription for an opioid and get it filled the same day, but we have patients waiting six, eight, 12 weeks to get a medical cannabis card."

The high cost of the cannabis is associated with the small number of patients. Industry experts feel that once the process of purchasing medical marijuana becomes simpler, the costs will come down.

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