The results of the November 2nd election will determine the future of Virginia’s commercial cannabis market. And while the work of the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority is off to a slow start, legislators on the Cannabis Oversight Commission are already making major changes to the law.
The Board of the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority (VCCA) has been busy creating internal policies, drafting job descriptions, and approving their budget, leaving less time to answer fundamental questions raised since the legalization of simple possession and home cultivation.
It’s still unclear how users can legally purchase cannabis seeds, how much marijuana product they are allowed to possess in public, and whether their family members will have their sentences for marijuana crimes modified.
Report on Sealings & Expungement
Since decriminalization, most employers and universities are now barred from requiring applicants to disclose misdemeanor marijuana crimes (Va. Code § 19.2-389.3), opening the door for thousands of Virginians to apply for jobs and degrees where they could not have before.
In addition to this effort to address the effects of criminalization, the Cannabis Control Act gives preference in the license applications to Virginians who have been convicted of a misdemeanor marijuana crime. While Virginia State Police has sealed nearly half a million records of misdemeanor marijuana offenses, the VCCA will still retain exclusive access in order to verify an individual’s social equity status.
However, Deputy Director of Public Safety & Homeland Security Shawn Talmadge informed the Commission that records related to possession of marijuana without a valid prescription (Va. Code § 18.2-250.1) have been expunged. Now nearly 400,000 records cannot be used solely to determine social equity status as the Cannabis Control Act intended (Va. Code § 4.1-606(B)13).
Proposed Changes for 2022 Cannabis Control Act
Referring to a select list of recommendations from JLARC’s report on the Cannabis Control Act, the Commission agreed to introduce the following proposals that could have major implications on competition and diversity in Virginia’s cannabis market.
- Allow medical dispensaries to sell seeds directly to the public beginning July 1, 2022.
- Expedite the timeline for release of regulations from July 1, 2023 to January 1, 2023.
- Allow the VCCA to determine if license caps need to increase, not the legislature.
- Shift oversight of industrial hemp processors from the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (VDACS) to the VCCA.
- Create subclasses of licenses, including micro-licenses.
- Expedite the date for commercial retail sales by allowing pharmaceutical permit processors to create an “incubator program” for social equity businesses.
While most proposals were met with consent, some legislators hesitated to allow pharmaceutical permit processors to get a head start in commercial sales. The concern is that just five companies – worth billions of dollars collectively – will corner the market, undermining the law’s efforts to uplift small businesses and combat the effects of criminalization.
The Commission’s Chair, Senator Ebbin (D-Alexandria), asked that Delegate Scott (D-Portsmouth) head a subcommittee to assess the merits of this incubator program.
The recommendations of the Cannabis Oversight Commission will guide the legislature as it works towards reenacting the Cannabis Control Act and will ultimately vest the VCCA with the authority to fully and independently regulate the market. But it cannot be overstated that the upcoming election could mean the difference between a thriving and diverse commercial cannabis market or no market at all.
Gentry Locke Consulting is Virginia’s premiere cannabis consulting firm, delivering proactive and comprehensive services in regulatory compliance, business consulting, capital acquisition, and legislative affairs to help clients maximize their opportunities in Virginia’s newest billion dollar industry.