Among 700 bills Virginia first-year Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed into law April 11 was legislation that eliminates the requirement that medical cannabis patients register with the state’s Board of Pharmacy.
The provisions under that signed legislation will take effect July 1. Until then, patients are still required to register with the Pharmacy Board after receiving their written certification from a registered practitioner in order to purchase cannabis at a state-licensed dispensary.
Currently, there are more than 47,000 program registrants with an estimated 8,000 applicants still awaiting approval, according to reform group NORML.
“These legislative improvements will bring great relief to the thousands of Virginians waiting to access the medical cannabis program,” said JM Pedini, NORML’s development director and the executive director of Virginia NORML. “We hear from dozens of Virginians each week who are struggling with the registration process and frustrated by the 60-day wait to receive their approval from the Board of Pharmacy.”
After July 1, patients who still wish to receive a physical medical cannabis card can do so through a request to the Board of Pharmacy.
Other medical cannabis program changes in the bill include the removal of mandatory active ingredient ratio mandates for product formulations, expanded technology that may be used in processing, and additional modifications that clarify the scope of producing and dispensing medical cannabis.
The changes were important steps to modernize Virginia’s medical cannabis program and ensure products are more accessible and affordable to patient across the state, Jushi Holdings Inc. CEO, chairman and founder Jim Cacioppo said in a statement.
“This bill is a very positive and critically important step in improving the medical cannabis program for the patients in Virginia,” he said. “Jushi commends the governor and General Assembly for addressing patients’ needs through this legislation, and applauds Sen. [Siobhan] Dunnavant and Del. [Roxann] Robinson for their leadership this session. We look forward to continuing our support for increased access to medical cannabis for certified patients in the commonwealth.”
Jushi’s BEYOND / HELLO retail locations in Virginia are two of 10 operating medical cannabis dispensaries in the state. The multistate operator plans to open a third location in Alexandria.
In addition, Jushi also received final approval from the Virginia Board of Pharmacy to begin planting in its new state-of-the-art vertical cultivation facility, and plans to begin to fill its grow rooms with clones this week.
Jushi’s expansion in Virginia comes on the heels of former Gov. Ralph Northam signing an adult-use cannabis legalization bill in April 2021. As a result, adults 21 and older have been allowed to possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis and grow up to four plants per household since July 1, 2021.
However, several provisions of the roughly 300-page legalization bill, such as launching commercial adult-use cannabis sales, are subject to reenactment, meaning a review and vote by members of the 2022 General Assembly.
But the outcome of that reenactment has become less certain with Republicans taking control of the governorship and House of Delegates this year.
In addition to signing the medical cannabis-related bill, Gov. Youngkin also proposed on Monday that the General Assembly establish new misdemeanor penalties for people in possession of more than 2 ounces of cannabis, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
Under current Virginia laws and penalties, those who possess anywhere from 1 ounce to 1 pound of cannabis are subject to a civil violation that includes a maximum fine of $25 with no possibility of incarceration.
Youngkin’s misdemeanor proposal came in the form of an amendment to one of the 141 bills he did not sign on Monday. That legislation heads back to the General Assembly for consideration on April 27.
The governor’s misdemeanor proposal is in line with the state’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee, which recommended in June that Virginia follow other states that have legalized adult-use cannabis but have maintained criminal misdemeanor charges for people with gradually larger amounts, the Times-Dispatch reported.
Virginia NORML responded via social media to the governor’s proposal, stating: “Instead of creating new ways to criminalize Virginians for a legal substance, Gov. Youngkin’s administration ought to focus on establishing the retail market for adult-use cannabis, ensuring that products are safe, convenient, and affordable.”