A $50 million medical cannabis program is set to launch in Virginia

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Within the next few weeks, Virginia’s medical cannabis program could be reaping a healthy amount of revenue for the state. According to analysts, the market could be worth $50 million by 2024 — a projected figure motivated by the possible introduction of flower sales within the next year or so.

Until that time comes, cannabis consumers in Virginia will be able to get their hands on edibles, oils and vape cartridges; the latter of which will be sold in single doses that do not exceed 10 milligrams of THC. 

According to the latest edition of the Marijuana Business Factbook, medical cannabis sales in Virginia will have no trouble topping $9 million-$11 million during 2021, with revenue likely to climb upwards in the range of $45 million-$55 million by 2024.

Licensees see potential in Virginia’s medical cannabis market

While the $50 million estimated valuation of what would by then be four-year-old might not seem like much, license holders are optimistic about the soon-to-be launched market. Why? Five vertically-integrated licenses were distributed among lucky applicants. Those licensees can participate in one of five “health service” areas. Moreover, an additional license is now up for grabs, what with MedMen Enterprises being obligated to give its license up in June.

“Pharmacies” or “satellite dispensaries” can be opened by licensees, with no more than six being allowed to open in their particular areas of service. When these businesses do eventually open their doors, they will be limited to selling medical cannabis products in the aforementioned categories. However, there’s a good chance that flower products could be included in retail stock when a Democratic-controlled Legislature and Democratic governor are in control next year.

Valuation projections for Virginia’s medical cannabis market could swell if flower products are permitted by lawmakers. Analysts feel confident about this, since Florida demonstrates a success story; the state’s medical cannabis sales doubled after flower products were allowed.

Virginia Cannabis Industry Association launched to expand license opportunities

In addition to a Virginia Medical Cannabis Coalition that was established by licensees, the unlucky permit applicants have joined forces to create a Virginia Cannabis Industry Association that will, hopefully, help new business license opportunities to transpire.

“We think limiting the availability (of the market) to five companies doesn’t encourage the type of competition that would be helpful to consumers,” said executive director of the industry association, Rebecca Gwilt.

Virginia-based pharmaceutical processor Dalitso, ll is in possession of a vertical medical cannabis license for northern Virginia; a deal snapped up by dispensary operator Jushi. The other four active licensees are Virginia-based Dharma Pharmaceuticals for southwestern Virginia, Columbia Care for the Portsmouth area and Maryland-based MSO Green Leaf Medical for the Richmond area.

“The process by and large was closed-door and lacked transparency, which led to litigation. Virginia has a thriving agricultural industry, and many were disappointed to find out there was not a place for them in the current (marijuana market),” Gwilt added regarding the licensing process, which saw 51 apply. “We want the state to do some hard thinking about how best to structure the program, even if that means changing its philosophy from full vertical integration to having a more diverse set of licensing opportunities available.”

Something else that could happen in the near future for Virginia’s cannabis market is the introduction of a recreational cannabis program. A study delving into the potential of an adult-use program has been initiated by a legislative group, but it’s likely that lawmakers will take years to actually assess the overall benefits of expanding to the recreational consumer segment. The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission must now make recommendations for an adult-use cannabis legalization initiative to be brought to the forefront.