It’s always an election year in Virginia, and with fewer than 100 days before the November 2019 General Election, there looms a possible change in majority control in the state legislature. Such a shift would have major implications for the future of Virginia’s medical cannabis program, according to VCIA Executive Director Rebecca E. Gwilt.
“We’re likely to see continued incremental change if the makeup of the legislature remains consistent, whereas a broader expansion in the program is likely if the 2020 General Assembly is controlled by the Democrats,” says Gwilt.
Any changes in law or regulation are likely to impact current and prospective industry players, and there has been a flurry of changes already this year. In May, VCIA and others submitted comments to the Virginia Board of Pharmacy regarding current emergency regulations, advocating for expanding access to the industry, increasing clarity around testing requirements, and relaxing the prohibition on telemedicine for medical cannabis consultations.
The emergency regulations expire on August 5, and a set of proposed regulations that include changes based on the aforementioned comments) will become final soon after.
On July 1, three new laws intended to expand patient access to and the therapeutic value of Virginia’s medical cannabis program took effect. In September, an additional change to the regulations will be made to ensure they reflect the new laws, just in time for advocates and lawmakers to begin preparing for the 2020 General Assembly session.
Gwilt notes that if the Democrats take the House in 2020, the state’s medical cannabis program is likely to make significant progress in the following areas: (1) adopting a state-legal model (as opposed to the current “affirmative defense” structure), (2) implementation of tiered licensing that would permit non-vertically integrated entrants to the permitting process, and (3) increased state resources dedicated to regulating cannabis permittees. If not, the industry will likely move forward with efforts to increase access to pharmacy locations, and to adjust regulations to bring to market a greater selection of therapeutic products.
Gwilt believes that active stakeholder involvement toward forward progress, incremental or not, is important to preserve Virginia’s control over its destiny. “If States aren’t acting now to establish regulatory frameworks for the cultivation, manufacture, sale, and distribution of this commodity, we are likely to see large industry entrants create that framework for them in a few years when marijuana is descheduled by Congress. Now is the time for industry to get involved in the process and to help educate lawmakers and citizens about how to build a safe, effective program that benefits patients and the Commonwealth.”
The Virginia Cannabis Industry Association represents members’ best interests to advance legislation, regulations and implementation in support of Virginia’s regulated cannabis industry. The mission includes bringing the highest quality, safest and compliant medical cannabis products and services to consumers in Virginia to improve their quality of life, comfort and well-being. VCIA’s vision is to provide a single voice for the membership, conveying the collective interests of pharmaceutical processors, ancillary businesses and other stakeholders in Virginia’s regulated cannabis industry. The vision includes collaboration with State and Local Governments and the community to assist in education, and to build the industry in a sustainable manner in a competitive, well-regulated market which will compel our members to cultivate, manufacture, and sell the finest products available.
Rebecca Gwilt, Esq., Executive
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