Amid the foundering effort to legalize recreational marijuana sales in Virginia, Richmond’s lone state-approved medical cannabis provider continues to expand with its third stand-alone retail dispensary in the region.
Green Leaf Medical (stylized “gLeaf”) opened a shop Monday at 401 Southpark Blvd. in Colonial Heights. It occupies what was formerly a Burger King near Southpark Mall.
The 3,800-square-foot outpost joins Green Leaf’s other Virginia-based dispensaries at 3100 W. Cary St. in Carytown and 11190 W. Broad St. in Short Pump. The dispensaries sell joints, tinctures, marijuana buds, edibles and other products to patients certified by healthcare practitioners.
The Colonial Heights dispensary, like the Short Pump store, is a gLeaf brand location that features drive-thru service. The Carytown spot is a Cannabist location, which is a brand owned by Green Leaf’s New York-based parent company Columbia Care.
About $900,000 was invested in the buildout of the Colonial Heights dispensary, which had been in the works since last year, according to Phil Goldberg, vice president of operations at Columbia Care and president of Green Leaf.
Green Leaf plants its flag in Colonial Heights as it turns away from plans to expand into Chesterfield County.
The company had sought to open a dispensary near Chesterfield Towne Center, only to be rejected by the county. The county pointed to marijuana’s status as a federally illegal substance as the reason for the denial.
Green Leaf unsuccessfully appealed Chesterfield’s decision late last year and ultimately terminated its lease for the space. Goldberg said the company is still on the hunt for locations for additional dispensaries elsewhere in the region, but no longer in Chesterfield.
“We lost our appeal on the Midlothian location, so right now Chesterfield County is out. We’re looking north of Richmond (for another dispensary site),” Goldberg said in an interview Wednesday.
State law allots Green Leaf up to five satellite dispensaries in Richmond, Petersburg and surrounding areas. It’s also able to have an additional dispensary at its Virginia operational hub in Manchester at 2804 Decatur St., where it also grows cannabis and manufactures cannabis products. Columbia Care has approval to operate dispensaries in eastern Virginia.
Green Leaf’s retail expansion comes the same week state lawmakers tabled legislation to permit sales of recreational cannabis. Proposed legislation would have allowed companies that provide medical cannabis in Virginia to expand into recreational products this year in a kick off to a broader recreational market in 2024.
Goldberg said the lack of a legal avenue to sell recreational pot in Virginia has created space for illegal operators to compete with state-sanctioned medical providers, which are the only legal marijuana merchants.
“We’re hoping by 2024 the program will be available for residents of Virginia, but it’s yet to be seen. As we wait, the illicit market continues to proliferate,” Goldberg said. “Without getting a program in place, it’s starting to get out of control. We’re in competition with these pop-up shops not paying for testing or pharmacists to oversee their operations.”
It is legal for Virginia residents to consume and grow marijuana for their own personal recreational use in limited amounts.
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