Medical Cannabis patients in Virginia may soon be able to cruise through a drive-thru to fill their prescriptions. This summer, Green Leaf Medical, AKA gLeaf, plans to open a dispensary in a former KFC/ Long John Silver’s in the Short Pump area of Richmond. GLeaf already has a large dispensary in the city’s Southside, which opened last year. The company is still waiting on clearance from the Virginia Board of Pharmacy for the drive-thru configuration.
Nearby in Maryland, multiple medical dispensaries already run drive-thrus. Mana was the first to do so in the state, as cannabis sales surged at the start of the pandemic and social distancing was necessary. Drive-thrus are among several low-contact pandemic-response strategies medicinal cannabis purveyors have used across the country—others include curbside pickup, online ordering and home delivery. And, of course, many non-cannabis pharmacies offer similar services.
GLeaf is also framing the drive-thru approach as a COVID-response, in part. CEO Philip Goldberg told The Outlaw Report his company is excited to run a drive-thru for two main reasons. One is that, “With the pandemic still a threat,” many customers use delivery to avoid interpersonal contact: “The drive-thru windows allow our patients to remain in their cars, socially distanced, while still having the opportunity to speak with our pharmacists and pick up their medical cannabis products,” he said.
And, “the drive-thru will allow patients with mobility issues, [who may use a] wheelchair, walker, cane, crutches [or other device], easier access to medical cannabis,” Goldberg said. “Patients can use the [online] menu to pre-order, or [order] at the window, all without leaving their car.”
The new Short Pump location will also offer walk-in services, pharmacist consultations and deliveries, as does gLeaf’s existing Richmond business—the 82,000-square-foot cannabis production site and dispensary on Decatur Street.
GLeaf is planning to spend in the range of half a million dollars to set up the 4,000-foot dispensary in Short Pump over the next several months, according to Richmond Biz Sense. As the owner of the only current medical cannabis license in Virginia’s Health Service Area 4 (HSA4), it is permitted to open five satellites in total in the area, at this time. It is currently looking for additional drive-thru-ready sites.
“There is nothing in the regulations that would specifically prohibit a drive-thru,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, who holds leadership positions with both NORML and Virginia NORML. “Ultimately, it will be up to the Board of Pharmacy to approve the proposal.”
They mentioned another potential advantage of the drive-thru setup: “Currently, only registered patients and agents are allowed to enter Virginia dispensaries, and that has certainly presented issues for patients who then require child care, or who rely on assistance from another adult in order to pick up their medication.” Pedini said the drive-thru “would greatly improve patient access, and, during the public health crisis, it just makes sense.” The Virginia Medical Cannabis Coalition and Virginia Cannabis Industry Association were not available for comment on the drive-thru possibility at this time.
Virginia’s first medical cannabis facility, Dharma Pharmaceuticals in Bristol (HSA3) opened in October 2020. Along with gLeaf in Richmond, the other current functioning Virginia locations include Beyond/ Hello in Manassas (HSA2) and Columbia Care in Portsmouth (HSA5). The right to set up shop in HSA1 remains up in the air; the companies TheraTrue and MedMed are both vying for the license.
New York-based Columbia Care, one of the U.S.’s largest medical cannabis operators and the holder of Virginia’s HSA5 license, is in the process of acquiring gLeaf in a $240 million deal. If the plan goes through, Columbia Care will take over gLeaf’s business in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
In other Virginia Cannabis news, recreational adult cannabis will become legal this summer, as the VA legislature recently approved Governor Ralph Northam’s amendments to the legalization plan, which include a July 1 end to prohibition.
Meanwhile, in Delaware, Columbia Care recently joined three of the state’s six medicinal cannabis companies to testify against a commercial, adult-use cannabis bill, in opposition to much of the local cannabis community, as Outlaw Reportcovered. Similar trends are also playing out in Maryland with the medical cannabis company Culta.