First within the South – Virginia’s Legalization Focuses on Public Security, Well being and Social Justice


With the signing of the Hashish Management Act (the Act) on April 21, 2021, Virginia grew to become the primary southern state to legalize grownup use cannabis and simply the fourth state to take action by way of the legislature. Legalizing grownup use cannabis by way of the legislature, versus by way of the poll field, isn’t the everyday route states have adopted thus far. Eleven of the sixteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized grownup use cannabis by way of using poll measures. Virginia joins Vermont, Illinois, New York and New Mexico (which legalized after Virginia) as one of many few states which have gone the legislative route. Below Governor Northam’s administration, the trail to legalization was swift, taking lower than 4 months from introduction to passage.

Governor Northam added amendments to the already handed Senate Invoice 1406 and the Normal Meeting voted to approve these amendments, with the Lieutenant Governor breaking the tie within the Senate’s vote. Upon signing, Governor Northam referred to as the legislation a step in direction of “constructing a extra equitable and simply Virginia and reforming our felony justice system to make it extra truthful.” This message and the alternatives to advertise social fairness by way of a authorized cannabis business have been constant factors of advocacy made by supporters because the invoice superior to changing into legislation.

Previous to the Governor’s amendments, the Act into consideration set July 1, 2024 because the date on which each authorized possession and grownup use gross sales would start. The Governor determined to speed up the date for authorized possession to July 1 of this 12 months, a call believed to have been influenced by information exhibiting that Black Virginians have been greater than 3 times as prone to be cited for possession, even after easy possession was decriminalized within the state a 12 months prior. The regulated grownup use market remains to be set to start making gross sales on July 1, 2024; nonetheless, it stays attainable that this date could possibly be superior by way of the legislature within the meantime. However, Virginia is on observe to changing into the primary southern state with an working regulated business cannabis market.

Creating an Administrative Construction for the Grownup Use Program

Virginia grew to become the primary state within the South to legalize grownup use cannabis

This sweeping fifty-page legislation creates the Hashish Management Authority to control the cultivation, manufacture, wholesale and retail sale of cannabis and cannabis product. The Act additional lays the groundwork for licensing market contributors and regulating acceptable use of cannabis; defining native management; testing, labeling, packaging and promoting of cannabis and cannabis merchandise; and taxation. The Act additionally comprises adjustments to the felony legal guidelines of the Commonwealth. Companion to the Act are new legal guidelines addressing the testing, labeling and packaging of smokable hemp merchandise and manufacturing of edible cannabis merchandise. Moreover, the Hashish Fairness Reinvestment Board was created to handle the influence of financial divestment, violence and felony justice responses to group and particular person wants by way of scholarships and grants.

Whereas individuals 21 years or older might possess as much as one ounce of cannabis and domesticate as much as 4 crops for private use per family starting on July 1, 2021, there are a number of laws to be written with a purpose to regulate the grownup use market. These laws would be the satan within the particulars of how the regulated market will work. Regardless, the Hashish Management Act does set up the framework for grownup use cannabis that’s distinctive to Virginia and designed to advertise and encourage participation from individuals and communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition and enforcement.

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The Hashish Management Authority (CCA) will include a Board of Administrators, the Hashish Public Well being Advisory Council, the Chief Govt Officer and workers. The Board can have 5 members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the legislature, every with the potential of serving two consecutive five-year phrases. The Board is tasked with creating and implementing laws below which retail cannabis and cannabis merchandise are possessed, bought, transported, distributed, and delivered. It’s anticipated that the Board will start discussing laws subsequent 12 months and that purposes for licenses for cannabis cultivation services, manufacturing services, cannabis testing services, wholesalers, and retail shops will start to be accepted in 2023. Importantly, a Enterprise Fairness and Range Assist Workforce, led by a Social Fairness Liaison, and the Fairness Reinvestment Board, led by the Director of Range, Fairness and Inclusion, are to contribute to a plan to advertise and encourage participation within the business by individuals from disproportionately impacted communities.

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Regulating Participation within the Market

The Act empowers the Board to determine a strong and various market with many entry alternatives for market contributors. As much as 450 cultivation licenses, 60 manufacturing licenses for the manufacturing of retail cannabis merchandise, 25 wholesaler licenses and 400 licenses for retail shops may be granted. These numbers don’t embody the 4 permits granted to pharmaceutical processors (entities that domesticate and dispense medical cannabis) below the Commonwealth’s medical program.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam
Picture: Craig, Flickr

Along with the sheer variety of licenses that may be granted, the Act devises a novel method to addressing considerations of a focus of licenses in too few palms and a market dominated by giant multi-state operators. On the identical time, it units up a mechanism to capitalize two cannabis fairness funds supposed to profit individuals, households and communities traditionally and disproportionately focused and affected by drug enforcement by way of grants, scholarships and loans. Over-concentration and market dominance considerations are addressed by limiting an individual to holding an fairness curiosity in no multiple cultivation, manufacturing, wholesaler, retail or testing facility license. This eliminates the power of firms to be vertically built-in from cultivation by way of retail gross sales operations. Nevertheless, there are two exceptions to the obstacle to vertical integration. First, the Board is allowed to develop laws that let small companies to be vertically built-in and make sure that all licensees have an equal and significant alternative to take part out there. These laws can be carefully scrutinized by these trying to enter Virginia’s regulated market as soon as they’re proposed. Qualifying small companies may benefit considerably from the financial benefits commensurate with being vertically built-in, assuming they’ve the entry to the capital wanted to realize integration and function efficiently. The second exception permits permitted pharmaceutical processors and registered industrial hemp processors to carry a number of licenses in the event that they pay $1 million to the Board (to be allotted to job coaching, the fairness mortgage fund or fairness reinvestment fund) and submit a variety, fairness and inclusion plan for approval and implementation. Consequently, Virginia is making an attempt to fund, partly, its bold social fairness applications by monetizing the chance for these processors to take part vertically within the grownup use market.

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These devilish particulars of how this market will operate, and the way onerous compliance obligations can be, will emanate from these but to be proposed laws protecting many areas and topic issues together with:

  • Out of doors cultivation by cultivation services;
  • Safety necessities;
  • Sanitary requirements;
  • A testing program;
  • An utility course of;
  • Packaging and labeling necessities;
  • Most THC stage for retail merchandise (to not exceed 5 mg per serving or 50 mg per bundle for edible merchandise);
  • Report retention necessities;
  • Standards for evaluating social fairness license purposes primarily based on sure possession requirements;
  • Licensing preferences for certified social fairness candidates;
  • Low curiosity mortgage program requirements;
  • Private cultivation pointers; and
  • Out of doors promoting restrictions.

For sure, the CCA Board has rather a lot work forward with a purpose to concern affordable laws that may perform the dictates within the Act and encourage the event of a well-functioning market delivering significant social fairness alternatives.

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A lot work must be achieved earlier than July 1, 2024 to organize for its debutThe appliance course of for the 5 classes of licenses can be developed by the Board, together with utility payment and annual license payment quantities. It’s not clear how substantial these charges can be and what impact they are going to have on the power of less-well-capitalized firms and people to compete out there. The Act dictates that licenses are deemed nontransferable from individual to individual or location to location. Nevertheless, it’s not solely clear that adjustments in possession can be prohibited. The Act contemplates that adjustments in possession can be permitted, at the least as to retail retailer licensees, by way of a reapplication course of. Maybe the forthcoming laws will add readability to the transferability of licenses and tackle using administration companies agreements as a possible workaround to the constraints in license possession.

Sure necessities explicit to sure license-types are worthy of highlighting. For instance, there are two courses of cultivation licenses. Class A cultivation licenses authorize cultivation of a sure variety of crops inside a sure variety of sq. toes to be decided by the Board. Apparently, Class B licenses are for cultivation of low whole THC (not more than 1%) cannabis. A number of necessities particular to retail shops are noteworthy. Shops can not exceed 1,500 sq. toes, or make gross sales by way of drive-through home windows, internet-based gross sales platforms or supply companies. Prohibitive native ordinances aren’t allowed; nonetheless, localities can petition for a referendum on the query of whether or not retail shops must be prohibited of their locality. Retail shops are allowed to promote immature crops and search to assist the house growers, an allowance that’s pretty distinctive among the many present authorized adult-use states.

Taxing Hashish Gross sales

Given the notion that regulated cannabis markets add to state coffers, it’s little shock that Virginia’s retail market can be topic to vital taxes. The taxing system is easy and never sophisticated by a taxing regime associated to product weight or THC content material, for instance. There’s a 21% tax on retail gross sales by shops, along with the present gross sales tax charges. As well as, localities might, by ordinance, impose a 3% tax on retail gross sales. These taxes may end in a retail tax of roughly 30%.

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Modifications to Felony Legal guidelines

Modifications to the criminality of cannabis can have lengthy lasting results for a lot of Virginians. These adjustments embody:

  • Fines of not more than $25 and participation in substance abuse or education schemes for unlawful purchases by juveniles or individuals 18 years or older;
  • Prohibition of warrantless searches primarily based solely on the odor of cannabis;
  • Automated expungement of data for sure former cannabis offenses;
  • Prohibition of “gifting” cannabis in trade for nominal purchases of another product;
  • Prohibition of consuming cannabis or cannabis merchandise in public; and
  • Prohibition of consumption by drivers or passengers in a motorized vehicle being pushed, with consumption being presumed if cannabis within the passenger compartment isn’t within the authentic sealed producer’s container.

These adjustments, and others, signify a balancing of public security with classes realized from the consequences of the battle on medicine.


The Act comprises myriad different noteworthy provisions. For instance, the Board should develop, implement and preserve a seed-to-sale monitoring system for the business. Crops being grown at residence have to be tagged with the grower’s identify and driver’s license or state ID quantity. Licenses could also be stripped from companies that don’t stay impartial whereas staff try to unionize. Nevertheless, this provision won’t turn into efficient except authorized once more by the legislature subsequent 12 months. Banks and credit score unions are protected below state legislation for offering monetary companies to licensed companies or for investing any earnings derived from the offering of such companies. This provision is meant to handle the shortage of entry to banking for cannabis companies because of the federal illegality of cannabis by eradicating any perceived state legislation limitations for banks and credit score unions to do enterprise with licensed cannabis firms.

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The grownup use cannabis business is coming to Virginia. A lot work must be achieved earlier than July 1, 2024 to organize for its debut. Nevertheless, the felony justice reforms and dedication to repairing harms associated to previous prohibition of cannabis are quickly to be a present-day actuality. Virginia is the primary Southern state to take the trail in direction of authorized grownup use cannabis. It’s unlikely to be the final.


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