Thousands apply for medical marijuana cards in Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. — You can obtain marijuana legally in two ways if you want to toke up in Virginia.

You could either grow the flower yourself at home, which can be time consuming. The other option is purchasing the drug from a dispensary.

Erica Leone serves as clinical director at VirginiaMarijuanaCard.com.

“It needs to be from a Virginia licensed facility and in order to get into those dispensaries right now you do need a card,” Leone told CBS 6 on Thursday.

Friday marked the three-month anniversary since Virginia lawmakers legalized cannabis consumption and possession on July 1.

Leone’s team helps Virginians connect with a physician to apply for a medical marijuana card through the state’s Board of Pharmacy.

“You just talk to the practitioner, tell them what’s going on and what medications are or aren’t working for you,” she explained. “After the appointment, we will go ahead and get you your physician certification form which needs to be active for the year.”

Once approved, a medical marijuana card is active for a year and must be renewed. You must be 21 years and older and a Virginia resident to qualify.

Since its legalization, interest in the flower continues to skyrocket.

“We see probably around 250 to 300 patients a week depending on the time of year,” Leone recalled. “Over the course of us opening we’ve seen 10,000 patients.”

Virginians were able to apply for a medical marijuana card on August 2020 when medical sales began in October 2020.

The Board of Pharmacy spokesperson told CBS 6 that currently 1,000 to 1,200 people apply for a medical marijuana card each week.

As of September 2020, there are 4,727 registered patients in the Commonwealth.

Since September 9, 2021, the number of registered patients has climbed to 33,000.

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The website’s operations director, Cassandra Brooks, said the age of their patients tend to be older Virginians who find marijuana can help alleviate chronic pain, cancer, anxiety, PTSD, and insomnia.

“I had the pleasure of going to a patient’s house, a MS (Multiple sclerosis) patient, and seeing her walk for the first time in nine months after being on medical marijuana,” Brooks stated. “To me that was the turning point in my career and I realized this was no longer a job for me, it was my passion.”

Some states make it easier for residents to qualify for a card versus others.

“In Virginia, I think the process of obtaining your card is easier in terms of qualifying because you don’t need records necessarily,” Brooks said. “In a state like Ohio, there’s 25 qualifying conditions that can get you a card. You have to have records to verify that qualifying condition but your card is instantaneous you get it immediately at that appointment.

Brooks estimated it takes about six weeks for the state to review the applications and send the card in the mail due to the surge in interest.

Recreational sales of the drug in Virginia aren’t expected for several years as lawmakers continue to figure out the details of the program.

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