While it’s already legal in Virginia for residents 21 or older to grow up to four cannabis plants and to possess one ounce, the adult use legalization bill that Gov. Ralph Northam signed into law in April includes a 2024 launch date for sales.
And a lot can change between now and then.
One such change, for example, was proposed during last week’s first meeting of the legislature’s Joint Commission on Cannabis Oversight. The state’s existing handful of medical cannabis operators, known in the state as “pharmaceutical processors,” proposed, in response to an agenda item on “expediting legal access and commercial sales,” that they start first.
The existing operators in the state include some of the largest cannabis companies in the country, like Green Thumb Industries, Columbia Care, and Jushi. These companies are registered to lobby, too, according to registrations reviewed by Cannabis Wire. So, too, are some companies that have yet to establish a firm presence on cannabis in the state, like Curaleaf.
(In case you missed it, in February, Cannabis Wire was the first news organization to report on tobacco giant Altria’s cannabis lobbying in Virginia, as well as its plans to lobby nationally on cannabis.)
David May, of the Division of Legislative Services, told the Commission that their “suggestion was to come up with possibly a temporary permit structure because there’s going to be some lag time on the [Virginia Cannabis Control Authority] setting up their regulations.”
These operators, he continued, would be “given some sort of skeletal rule system that they would operate under until the Authority’s regulations went into place. And in doing so, the suggestion included an idea that pharmaceutical processors that engaged in this temporary permit would take on approximately five social equity licensees in, like, an incubator program where they would help get them started, they would make an investment which would go to help the social equity applicants get started with the idea of not letting them get a head start without letting anybody else enter the market at the same time.”
Rep. Charniele Herring responded first, and summed up the concerns of lawmakers who weren’t on board with the suggestion. These arrangements between larger companies and, often, women and minorities, Herring said, often result in partnerships with a “wink.” Herring continued that she is “very, very concerned” that this suggestion “negates” “the whole spirit of what we were trying to do with social equity.”
The counterpoint, Rep. Paul Krizek said, is that “the reason we’re entertaining this is because we have legalized marijuana, the use of marijuana, but we have not legalized the actual purchase of marijuana.”
“We don’t want to facilitate an illegal market out there and we don’t want to make it so that more people are being arrested. What we need to do is get the safe sales of marijuana out there as soon as possible,” he said.
Here are the cannabis companies—both existing and aspiring license holders—that are registered to lobby in Virginia:
Columbia Care, which holds a license, has had seven registered lobbyists this year:
Jushi Inc., which acquired licensee Dalitso, LLC in 2019, has had three registered lobbyists this year:
Dharma Pharmaceuticals LLC, which was acquired by Green Thumb Industries (GTI) in May, has had two registered lobbyists this year:
Green Leaf Medical of Virginia, which is in the process of being acquired by Columbia Care, has had one registered lobbyist this year:
TheraTrue Virginia LLC, which does not hold a license in Virginia but was recently awarded a license in Georgia, has had two registered lobbyists this year:
Curaleaf Holdings, Inc., which does not hold a license in Virginia, has had two registered lobbyists this year:
Ghost Management Group, LLC d/b/a/ Weedmaps has had one registered lobbyist this year: