CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Chesterfield County officials rejected a building permit for the company “Green Leaf Medical” — or “gLeaf” — to develop a medical cannabis dispensary along Midlothian Turnpike.
Deputy County Administrator Jesse Smith cited federal law as the reasoning behind the decision.
“According to the federal Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is a Schedule I drug with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” Smith said.
The company, gLeaf, currently runs two other dispensaries in the Richmond area. One is located in Henrico and the other is in Richmond.
JM Pedini with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws clarified the rules in the state of Virginia, specifically.
“Not only is medical cannabis explicitly legal under Virginia law,” Pedini said. “But under federal law, state sanctioned medical operations have been protected since 2014.”
Pedini also stressed how the rejected permit also closes off accessibility to medical cannabis for patients in Chesterfield and across the state.
“Chesterfield County is a really big region for this health service area,” Pedini said. “We’ve heard from so many patients who are really anxious for access to be available closer to home rather than all the way out here.”
Among these concerns, Pedini emphasized how limited access could force patients to get cannabis through more dangerous, un-regulated means.
“If patients don’t have access to legal, regulated products, they’ll unfortunately often turn to the illicit market,” Pedini said.
The balance between state and federal powers is complicated by Chesterfield zoning ordinance.
“Our zoning ordinance requires us to enforce the most restrictive regulations,” Smith said. “Whether they are local, state, or federal.”
Federal law does allow state-sanctioned medical cannabis operations, which obscures this explicit legality of allowing vs. denying medicinal use.
“It’s important that Chesterfield County understand that there is federal law allowing state sanctioned medical operations to continue without threat of federal interference.”
The county’s Board of Zoning Appeals has the next tier of jurisdiction over the conflict. It is up to this board to interpret county, state, and federal laws and regulations to determine whether or not the county can permit a medical-use cannabis dispensary. The case is set to be heard on November 2, 2022.