By Matt Young, WV Press News Sharing
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Trulieve, one of the nation’s leading cannabis companies, has announced that they have finalized the acquisition of Greenhouse Wellness West Virginia Dispensaries, LLC.
“We are the first MSO (multi-state operator) to start cultivation in West Virginia,” Heather Peairs, Trulieve’s area manager for West Virginia said on Friday. “We started in July of 2021. We opened our first medical marijuana dispensary in Morgantown, and our second in Weston. We’re really excited to be the first in West Virginia to bring home this medicine and be a part of the community.”
The Maryland-based Greenhouse Wellness was granted a permit to open a dispensary in Martinsburg this past January. With the acquisition finalized, Trulieve now holds 10 permits across the more densely populated areas of West Virginia.
As of December 2021, Trulieve operates 160 retail dispensaries within the northeastern, southeastern and southwestern United States, and employs more than 9,000 workers. According to the acquisition announcement, “Trulieve paid an immaterial amount of cash consideration for the transaction.”
Currently operating in 11 states, including West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, Trulieve was the most nominally profitable pot stock of 2021 according to Nasdaq, with a total value of $3.71 billion.
“Trulieve is very focused on being patient-first,” Peairs said. “We truly believe in what we do, and we believe in the medicine that we provide. And we’re excited to not only be one of the first in West Virginia – but to continue to increase our presence here.”
Patients suffering with serious medical conditions, such as neuropathies, various cancers and Crohn’s disease may be eligible to receive marijuana treatment. However, they must first schedule a diagnostic appointment with an approved physician. If they are deemed eligible, the physician will request that they fill out a patient certification form, which is then forwarded directly to the W.Va. Office of Medical Cannabis. Currently, there are nine cannabis dispensaries operating within West Virginia, and Trulieve is scheduled to open locations in South Charleston and Parkersburg later in May.
With its nearly 19,000 residents, Martinsburg certainly qualifies as being one of West Virginia’s more densely populated areas. And with a median household income of over $43,000 per year, those residents are seemingly in a better position to cover the cost of the medications than residents in less affluent areas. Geographical-affluence must be considered as Trulieve does not currently accept insurance-coverage for medical cannabis. However, Trulieve offers various other cost-saving options, such as first-time patient, veteran, and senior citizen discounts.
“We want to make sure that when you come into our dispensary we take care of you,” Peairs said. “We want to make sure that, regardless of the financial situation, you have the opportunity to try it.”
Beyond financial concerns, Peairs noted that it is equally important that patients are well educated on the medication, stating “The team there (at the dispensaries) is all about education, and trying to find you the right medicine to help your condition.”
As the first cannabis dispensary to accept patients in West Virginia, Trulieve is at the forefront in the promotion of medical marijuana, Peairs noted, before adding, “When you come into our dispensary, it’s not just a ‘grab-and-go.’ We’re there to consult you.”
“With medical marijuana, I’m 100% for it,” Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, told members of the media after Trulieve’s announcement. “Take cancer, for example, there’s two issues that you have – you’re nauseated and you can’t keep food down, and medical marijuana relieves that. It’s also a pain-reliever that isn’t an opioid.”
Blair further stated that while he advocates the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, he does not support legalization for recreational use.
“I think the numbers across the state are well over 50% in support of medical marijuana,” Blair noted. “The state doesn’t make that much money off of it, this is for medicinal purposes. It’s about providing relief to people who need it.”
Blair went on to reference research which has demonstrated marijuana to have significant benefits for those struggling with opioid dependency. According to a 2021 study published by The Harm Reduction Journal, “daily cannabis use was associated with lower odds of opioid use during treatment.”
In a showing of bipartisanship, Del. Kayla Young, D-Kanawha, echoed the support expressed by Blair with regard to medical marijuana, saying, “I support the medical program fully, and I’m glad that it’s finally coming to fruition. I’ve worked with Trulieve for about a year-and-a-half now, and I’m excited that it’s coming to South Charleston.”
However, Young and Blair are on opposite sides of the argument for recreational legalization.
“I do support decriminalization and legalization of full-recreational,” Young noted. “But I think medicinal is a good place to start.”
“We are here to educate,” Peairs concluded. “We are all about putting the patient first. We get involved in the community – we get out there to provide that education to anyone wishing to listen or ask questions. We understand that there are people out there who may not be comfortable with what we do and what we provide. But the one thing I really want to stress is that we are here to educate.”
In the service of those efforts, Trulieve employs a “Community Education Team” that visits physicians, hospitals, and various community events to provide the public with as much information as possible. The team is next scheduled to be a part of the West Virginia Breast Health Initiative “Race for the Ribbon” on May 7 in Charleston, where an informational-booth will be available to spread awareness as to the services that Trulieve provides.
“Our website, trulieve.com, is a really great source of information,” Peairs added. “There is an entire education link on there.”
At this time, Trulieve is planning to open seven more dispensaries in West Virginia by the end of 2022, and anticipates cultivation increasing from 85,000 to 125,000 square feet.