By Heather Michon
Fork Union may soon become part of one of Virginia’s newest business sectors.
A start-up called YAE Wellness is looking to create a medical cannabis production facility and dispensary on a plot of land near the Fluvanna Community Center.
Virginia legalized the limited use of medical cannabis starting July 1. Adult patients with a doctor’s prescription and permission from the Board of Pharmacy can purchase up to a 90-day supply of medical-grade cannabis oil, creams, on tinctures; edible products like lollipops and lozenges; and vape pens.
In recent weeks, three similar companies — Dharma Pharmaceuticals in Bristol, Green Leaf in Richmond, and Beyond/Hello in Manassas — have opened for business.
In an informational packet from the company, YAE says they are looking to purchase a 15-acre parcel in Fork Union for the construction of a 100,000-square foot building, which would be used for cultivation, laboratory space, administrative offices, and a pharmacy. When operational, the facility would employ around 50 people, from entry-level cultivation staff to more highly-skilled lab work.
The cost of the property is $135,000 for the property, but YAE is also promising a comprehensive package of local donations, including $100,000 to the Fork Union Fire Department over five years. They pledge to contribute to other area nonprofits, sponsor crime prevention seminars and training, and to maintain the nearby Petersburg Hill Plantation slave cemetery.
“The facility would also push traffic to the Fork Union area as people drive to and through Fork Union, on their way to filling prescriptions at the Fork Union property.”
However, all this is contingent on the company winning a license from the state — and that is no easy feat.
Virginia is divided into five Health Service Areas (HSAs), and each HSA is permitted to license just one provider. The Board of Pharmacy issued a license in HSA I (Central Virginia) to a company called PharmaCann in 2018, but later rescinded it.
Rudy Garcia, president of the Fluvanna Chamber of Commerce, circulated a call for action letter last week, asking the public to consider writing letters of support to the Board of Pharmacy or to sign on to a letter from the Chamber’s Executive Committee.
“This is an exciting opportunity for our community,” he said.
According to the 2020 Marijuana Business Factbook, the medical cannabis business in Virginia is expected to bring in about $9 million in revenue in 2021and grow to a $50 million-a-year industry by 2024.
The Board of Pharmacy will announce the new license on March 31, 2021.