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HUNTINGTON — One of the first cannabis operators to enter the West Virginia market is ramping up its operations the state.

Florida-based Trulieve on Thursday announced the acquisition of Greenhouse Wellness West Virginia Dispensaries LLC, a holder of a West Virginia dispensary permit in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

"This acquisition broadens our ever-expanding presence in West Virginia," said Kim Rivers, CEO of Trulieve.

The company also announced plans to open seven new dispensary locations throughout the state, along with its plans to move into a 100,000-square-foot cultivation and production facility near Lesage.

"We now have cultivation, processing and 10 dispensary permits in the state," Rivers said. "Trulieve is committed to investing in communities where we operate and will serve West Virginia patients by offering expanded access to high quality products and providing exceptional customer experiences."

Trulieve paid cash for the transaction to acquire Greenhouse but declined to comment on the exact amount. The transaction has been approved by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Rivers said.

Greenhouse was awarded the dispensary permit in Martinsburg in January 2021.

Heather Peairs, Trulieve's West Virginia area manager, said the new location, combined with Trulieve's nine other dispensary permits, are spread across many of the most populous areas in the state.

"Trulieve currently operates medical dispensaries in Morgantown and Weston," she said. "Several new locations are slated to open throughout the state in the coming months, which include Huntington, Milton, Hurricane, South Charleston, Belle, Parkersburg and a second location in Morgantown."

Peairs said the company is also nearly finished with its move into its cultivation and production facility near Huntington. The Huntington Area Development Council (HADCO) announced in September last year that it had reached a deal with Trulieve on the sale of more than 70 acres of industrial property and the long-term lease of its 100,000-square foot industrial building at HADCO Business Park on W.Va. 2 near Lesage.

"We started in a temporary facility in July, but we are almost finished expanding into our 100,000-square-foot facility in Lesage," Peairs said.

She said the facility now employs more than 30 people. It is expected to reach 100 to 125 employees once its fully operational.

"Overall in West Virginia, each dispensary has from 17 to 25 employees, and then with the cultivation operations we could have as many as 300 employees soon," Peairs said. "We anticipate growing that number in the future as the business grows."

The Medical Cannabis Act, passed by the West Virginia Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jim Justice in 2017, has allowed thousands of state residents with qualifying medical conditions to access medical marijuana for treatment of severe or chronic conditions while at the same time encouraging economic development statewide, according to Jason Frame, director of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources’ Office of Medical Cannabis.

To date, nine dispensaries, two processors and six growers are operational across West Virginia, he said.

“The medical cannabis industry has created 332 direct jobs in West Virginia, with an additional job growth of 1,884 positions in the fields of commercial construction, security services, and transportation,” Frame said. “As the medical cannabis industry continues to expand, opportunities for employment and patient care in West Virginia will also grow. Additionally, all products dispensed have been cultivated within West Virginia’s borders at medical cannabis growth and processing facilities.”

Frame added that the Office of Medical Cannabis has approved more than 7,000 applications for medical cannabis cards, which is an 81% increase in the number of patient cards issued since January. There has also been a 350% increase in the number of operational dispensaries in the same time period.

"West Virginia has really welcomed Trulieve with open arms," Peairs said. "The industry continues to grow in West Virginia. I believe it will continue to grow, but this isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. We will continue to educate with community outreach and expect to see patient numbers continue to grow as the community gets more information and education about medical cannabis. The more they know, the more we grow."

Peairs said Trulieve prides itself in being involved in the communities it serves.

"We just recently participated in an Earth Day cleanup in Morgantown, we have been involved in breast cancer awareness events, participated in Toys For Tots program and we were a sponsor for Race for the Ribbon in Charleston," she said.

Trulieve employs about 8,000 people and operates in 11 states. Those states include Georgia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, California and West Virginia.

Currently, the Trulieve dispensaries will offer flower and oil products. Patients can walk in, but home delivery is not available in West Virginia. In Florida, the company has a fleet of more than 100 vehicles delivering to the homes of patients.

Rivers described the retail dispensaries as a relaxed environment that focuses on education and consultation. All patients must check in and talk with the staff. There also is a medical cannabis showroom.

Rivers said anyone with questions should visit trulieve.com. The company also offers email and text groups to share information and educational material.

Fred Pace is the business reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Follow him at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.

Fred has been in the newspaper industry for 30+ years. He continues to be excited to bring readers news that only comes thru local journalism. “Being able to share the passion felt by entrepreneurs in our community with readers is exciting,” he said.

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