Virginia Legislature approves measure allowing dispensaries to serve medical cannabis

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Legislation to amend Virginia’s medical cannabis access law has been approved by the House of Delegates and Senate lawmakers. According to the details of House Bill 2218 and Senate Bill 1333, the production and dispensing of botanical cannabis formulations could soon be permitted.

However, before the measure can be effectuated, it must first be signed by Democratic Governor Ralph Northam. Should this happen, the range of legal products that can be processed by licensed cultivators will be expanded to include goods composed of either “cannabis oil or botanical cannabis.” 

Virginia’s existing medical cannabis law stipulates that licensed cultivators are restricted to processing cannabis into non-herbal formulations, including oils and tinctures.

Botanical cannabis remains the most popular formulation among consumers and among older consumers in particular. Limiting patients’ options to extracted oral formulations is not in their best interests,” said NORML’s Jenn Michelle Pedini as she applauded the legislation’s approval. 

“Botanical cannabis contains more than 100 distinct cannabinoids, many of which act synergistically with one another, producing an effect many scientists believe is necessary in order for patients to achieve maximum therapeutic benefit,” added Pedini.

Medical cannabis dispensaries started operating in Virginia during fall of 2020

Currently, around 9,000 patients are registered to receive medical cannabis in Virginia. In the event that the pending legislation gets the go-ahead from Governor Northam, statewide dispensaries are expected to start serving registered patients from September 2021 onwards.

The state legalized the plant in its medicinal form back in the year 2015. However, a dispensary system was not put into place until SB 976 was approved last year. Now that a dispensary system has finally been established, limited storefronts have been told they can officially open. 

A maximum of 30 will be allowed to serve Virginia’s medical cannabis consumer demographic. Some of the top dispensary names include Dharma Pharmaceuticals, gLeaf Medical Cannabis, Beyond/Hello a Jushi Brand and Columbia Care.

Adult cannabis possession and retail sales could soon be legal in Virginia

A separate chunk of legislation is also being considered by the Virginia State legislature. However, this legislation goes one step further. Supported by Governor Northam, the legislation aims to legalize the possession and retail sale of adult-use cannabis. 

Interestingly, 68 percent of Virginians support the adult-use measure, which was approved on February 27. Two bills – Senate Bill 1406 and House Bill 2312 – are now being reviewed by the governor, who may choose to approve, amend or veto the legislation.

“The advancement of this legislation is another historic step for cannabis justice in Virginia. Stakeholders, the administration, and the legislature have dedicated hundreds of hours to craft legislation that is just and equitable, and that will replace the failed policy of cannabis prohibition with one that promotes Virginia’s economy as well as Virginians’ public health and safety,” said Pedini, who also serves as the Executive Director of Virginia NORML.