Policy Recommendations Virginia

2019-2020 Improvements and Recommendations for Virginia

As of May 2020, Virginia maintains a registry of 5,209 patients, and a new suite of cannabis policy improvements designed to expand patient access and improve system function. Prior to pivoting to COVID emergency response measures, Old Dominion state lawmakers approved decriminalizing legislation reducing penalties for possession of up to one ounce of cannabis to a fine of $25 and no criminal record. The law also seals past cannabis possession criminal records from employers and school administrators, and removes the list of qualifying conditions for patient eligibility in favor of a physician determination.

In 2020, Virginia also passed legislation requiring the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to issue a report outlining a regulatory structure to oversee a comprehensive medical and adult-use cannabis program. The report is expected to be issued before the next legislative session. Another report expected this year from the Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources will provide recommendations for medical cannabis system improvements, including the use of cannabis flower as a treatment option. Beyond these reforms the Virginia legislature approved a measure that permits reciprocity for out-of-state patients, and increased the number of authorized medical cannabis retail storefronts from five to 30.

While these reforms are important Virginia still has significant work to do before its medical cannabis program is functional for state patients. As the state looks to 2021 ASA recommends that lawmakers focus efforts on authorizing legal retail sale of medical cannabis flower, and authorize registered patients to cultivate cannabis at home to reduce cost and travel burdens on patients. ASA also encourages state lawmakers to remove vertical integration requirements for medical cannabis businesses. While vertical integration can allow larger cannabis businesses to maximize efficiency and cost effectiveness, it can also lead to supply problems and increased costs for patients if vertically integrated businesses become the primary or only business arrangement authorized by states or territories.