Paul Krizek, a Democratic legislator from Alexandria, spoke at the first meeting of the Joint Commissioner on Cannabis Oversight on Tuesday. He announced that Virginia has legalized marijuana usage, but the state has not yet legalized the retail sale and purchase of marijuana in the state.
The commission is now working to introduce a method for the safe sales of marijuana as soon as possible. At present, the commission is working out a proposal with the state’s four legal, medical marijuana providers to allow them to sell to recreational marijuana users as well. In the meantime, the commission will work to establish a legal marketplace for the sale of recreational marijuana.
Just last year, the medical marijuana industry had wanted such a measure to allow the sale to recreational customers. But the bill had been scrapped by legislators because of fears that the medical marijuana industries would get an unfair advantage in the recreational marijuana market and be able to push out small businesses who are keen to enter the market.
But now the situation is very different. Some lawmakers are very skeptical about the legalization of marijuana use without a means of legally buying it. At present, residents of Virginia can only possess recreational marijuana if they grow it themselves or if they get it as a gift. Lawmakers do not want to wait three years till 2024 to legalize the retail sales of marijuana. They believe in order for the state to curb the growth of an illegal marijuana market, it needs to quickly provide the public a means to purchase the product.
The medical marijuana industries of Virginia are now asking for temporary recreational selling licenses in lieu of a promise that they will act as incubators for five new licenses to be issued as part of the social equity program. As part of this program, Black Virginians will be given legal marijuana selling licenses because their community had faced the brunt of the marijuana laws when it was illegal in the state.
Some legislators are in favor of temporary access to medical industry providers, but some other believe that such a move will harm the future potential of the social equity program that has been envisioned for the state. Legislator Charniele Herring gave examples of previous incubator programs for female entrepreneurs that were unsuccessful. She feels that such a future is eminent for the social equity program as well if the state continues with the incubator scheme.
At present, the trend among Virginia legislators seems to be to speed up the process of retail sale of marijuana in the state. But the method by which this process will be implemented has not yet been finalized and is leading to intense debates among lawmakers.