|Action||New Regulations Governing Pharmaceutical Processors|
|Comment Period||Ends 5/17/2019|
Patient Access and Free Enterprise
Dear Mr. Chair and Members of the Board of Pharmacy,
The Cannabis Business Association of Virginia (CannaBizVA) is a non-profit, trade association formed to advance legislation, regulation and implementation to support and grow Virginia’s regulated cannabis industries. Accordingly, CannaBizVA offers the following comment, which prioritizes patient access to care and free enterprise.
CannaBizVA respectfully requests the Board of Pharmacy consider expanding, if not outright dissolving, the government-sanctioned oligopoly currently governing Virginia’s medical cannabis industry. Allowing for only one vertically integrated, seed-to-sale pharmaceutical processor in each of the Commonwealth’s five geographically bound Health Service Areas functions to the detriment of Virginia’s small business economy and, most importantly, patient access to care.
The regulatory framework currently in place, and again proposed through the present Notice of Proposed Rule Making, is outdated and not adequately scaled to meet anticipated patient demand. This framework and supply chain model was enacted during the 2017 General Assembly session when CBD and THC-A oil was approved only for patients with intractable epilepsy. It is estimated that around 25,000 Virginians are plagued with this ailment. CannaBizVA contends that one vertically integrated, seed-to-sale pharmaceutical processor in each of the Commonwealth’s five geographically bound Health Service Areas was likely sufficient to meet the demands of 25,000 potential patients.
However, in 2018, the General Assembly passed legislation providing practitioners latitude to treat with CBD or THC-A oil any diagnosed condition or disease determined by the practitioner to benefit from such use, which exponentially expanded the anticipated demand for CBD & THC-A oil treatments to potentially each of Virginia’s 8.5 million citizens without a coinciding expansion of supply channels. As such, the Commonwealth could very well be tasked with treating upwards of a few million patients through a system designed to serve less than 1% of that demand. The current proposal simply does not have the capacity to suit the demands soon to be placed on the system.
Further complicating patient access are the geographic limitations on the current and proposed regulatory framework. With only one pharmaceutical processor in each of the Commonwealth’s vast and sprawling Health Service Areas, a qualifying medical cannabis patient living in Danville would have to drive no less than two and a half hours to the closest pharmaceutical processor in order to receive his/her medicine. This is particularly troubling when you consider that these patients are dealing with any number of ailments, spanning from chronic pain, anxiety, autism, PTSD, or intractable epilepsy, which can cause multiple seizures an hour.
An easy fix to the patient access issues of supply chain capacity and geographic barriers would be to simply open up Virginia’s medical cannabis market. Allowing more growers, processors, and retailers to operate in Virginia would increase production capacity, decrease travel time, and stimulate small, local farms and businesses. CannaBizVA encourages the Board of Pharmacy to maintain current quality and security standards, but expand the number of CBD and THC-A oil suppliers, processors, and retailers operating in the Commonwealth.