Virginia’s fast-tracked adult-use cannabis market could be worth billions

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

The personal possession, cultivation and consumption of small amounts of cannabis will be legalized in Virginia as of July 1, after legislators approved a number of relative measures. Although the all-important date is less than three months away, a commercial market is unlikely to kick off until 2024.

Amendments were proposed by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to speed up the effectuation of an adult-use cannabis legalization bill that lawmakers passed in February. Gov. Northam wanted to confirm the changes prior to putting his signature on the legislative package. 

According to the executive director of Virginia NORML, Jenn Michelle Pedini, cannabis legalization in Texas is “an incredible victory.” However, she is eager for sales to kick-start as soon as possible.

“In the interest of public and consumer safety, Virginians 21 and older should be able to purchase retail cannabis products at the already operational (medical cannabis) dispensaries in 2021, not in 2024. Such a delay will only exacerbate the divide for equity applicants and embolden illicit activity,” said Pedini.

Virginia is set to become the first state in the South to legalize a recreational cannabis market, which, based on Marijuana Business Daily projections, will harvest between $400 million and $500 million within the first full year of sales, progressing to $1.2 billion-$1.4 billion by its fifth year. 

Virginia’s recreational cannabis market may take five years to be fully established

A working group in Virginia, composed of four members of Northam’s cabinet and a handful of senior government officials, recently released estimates for Virginia’s recreational cannabis market. Their projections are highly optimistic the industry could turnover somewhere between $698 million and $1.2 billion.

However, the group claims that it will take as much as five years for an adult-use program to fully transpire across the state. Establishing a state agency for cannabis market regulation and cannabis consumption-related data accumulation are two key motives of the group, which also includes representatives from public health and law enforcement.

Sen. Tim Kaine thinks Virginia’s recreational cannabis bill needs some fine-tuning

Still deemed to be a Schedule One substance by the Federal government, cannabis is a potentially intoxifying illegal drug in Virginia. It is against the law for anyone to drive or operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of a substance that may inhibit his/her reactions, such as cannabis.

For this reason, Senator Tim Kaine believes that people driving under the influence should be a cause for concern. Just as a breathalyzer helps to estimate the levels of alcohol contained in a person’s blood, Kaine is intent on finding a solution to ascertain just how much cannabis is in someone’s system.

“We’re going to have to figure that out for [cannabis] because it’s legal but you don’t want to have people impaired,” said Kaine, who sponsors the federal bill and is also hopeful that the nation will legalize cannabis.

Virginia’s recreational cannabis bill also emphasizes social equity licenses and would impose vertical integration limits for small businesses.