ABINGDON — Southwest Virginia’s lone licensed cannabis products processor has a new owner.
Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries announced Thursday its acquisition of Dharma Pharmaceuticals, its production facilities and dispensary on Watauga Road in Abingdon. The local firm, which initially operated in the former Bristol Mall, moved to its current location in May.
Dharma is one of four state-licensed pharmaceutical processing firms in Virginia permitted to grow, process and sell cannabis oil products directly to patients with written certification from a medical provider. Dharma initially opened in October 2020. Other pharmaceutical processors operate in Richmond, Portsmouth and Manassas.
Jennifer Dooley, Green Thumb’s chief strategy officer, told the Bristol Herald Courier on Friday the company is constantly searching for expansion opportunities.
“We are really excited to partner with Dharma and to get to know the Virginia communities and markets and look forward to working with them,” Dooley said.
Green Thumb was established in 2014 and owns 15 manufacturing facilities, licenses for 110 retail locations and operations across 13 U.S. markets. It employs over 2,700 people.
Beyond CBD, Virginia is the first southeastern state to approve recreational adult use cannabis, with adult-use commercial sales expected to commence in 2024. The law, which was approved during the last General Assembly session then modified with a provision to allow adult residents to legally possess up to four marijuana plants, took effect Thursday.
Under Virginia’s recently approved adult-use cannabis legislation, existing medical marijuana operators will be able to obtain multiple adult-use licenses if they pay a $1 million fee to the Virginia Cannabis Equity Loan Fund and the Virginia Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund, and if they submit plans for diversity, equity and inclusion.
“Across the country, we see (legalization) is a matter of when, not if,” Dooley said.
Green Thumb’s philosophy, Dooley said, is to establish itself in communities as a reliable partner. In this case, the company sought and received approval from the Virginia Board of Pharmacy to take over Dharma’s operations.
“We announced our plans May 3 and, for the past two months, we have been working with the Virginia Board of Pharmacy to get the approvals,” Dooley said, adding that some corporate folks have been in Abingdon working with the existing workforce.
“We essentially just got 30 new team members,” Dooley said. “We’re excited to build out. With the license, we can open up to five stores, and we look forward to expanding.”
With the acquisition, Green Thumb has the opportunity to open up to five additional retail locations in Virginia. Dharma previously announced plans for a Salem dispensary location and work to establish it is continuing, Dooley said.
Green Thumb offers a diverse product line, including CBD products for medical treatment as well as recreational use marijuana, according to its website. Currently, Dharma is only permitted to sell CBD-infused products for medical treatment.
The company is publicly traded on the Canadian Stock Exchange because cannabis firms cannot legally be part of American stock exchanges.
Ben Kovler, Green Thumb’s CEO, called the deal a “major win” for shareholders.
“Expanding into the first state to pass adult use cannabis in the Southeastern U.S. is an important milestone for Green Thumb, and we are excited for the future,” Kovler said in a written statement.