Va. Governor Youngkin Removes Requirement for Cannabis Patient Registry
In case you missed it the new governor in Virginia has been a busy man. He recently signed more than 700 bills, amended over 100, and vetoed 26 bills. Among one of the 700 bills he signed was one that eliminated the requirement for medical cannabis patients to register with the Board of Pharmacy.
The new legislation doesn’t actually become law in Virginia until July 1, 2022. There are thousands of Virginians who are anxiously awaiting its implementation. According to reform group NORML there are around 47,000 people registered and 8,000 applicants who are awaiting approval from the Board of Pharmacy.
JM Pedini is the executive director of Virginia NORML. According to him, his organization hears from dozens of Virginians every week voicing their frustrations about the process with the Board of Pharmacy to access their medical cannabis.
With the new law, medical cannabis patients will no longer need to register with the Board of Pharmacy and there will be no requirement for them to have a physical medical cannabis card. For any who still wishes to have the actual card, those patients can still go through the Board of Pharmacy.
Jushi Holdings owns two of the ten medical cannabis dispensaries in the state of Virginia. Jim Cacioppos is the CEO, chairman and founder of Jushi.
“This bill is a very positive and critically important step in improving the medical cannabis program for the patients in Virginia,” he said. “Jushi commends the governor and General Assembly for addressing patients’ needs through this legislation and applauds Sen. [Siobhan] Dunnavant and Del. [Roxann] Robinson for their leadership this session. We look forward to continuing our support for increased access to medical cannabis for certified patients in the commonwealth.”
Proposed Penalties for Excess Cannabis Possession
Cannabis supporters applauded the governor on the ease of access to medical cannabis patients. They were not all supportive of his proposal to impose new penalties for those in possession of more than 2 ounces of cannabis.
Currently, in Virginia, you can possess anywhere from 1 ounce to 1 pound of cannabis. In this range, you are only subject to a civil violation. That violation only carries a maximum penalty of a $25 fine and no jail time.
In a separate bill that Gov. Youngkin amended and did not yet sign he is proposing to increase the penalty. That amendment is headed back to the General Assembly and they will be considering it later in April.
Instead of excess cannabis possession being a civil violation the new amendment proposes making it a misdemeanor. Along with that, you could see gradually stiffer penalties as the amount of cannabis possession increases.
While Virginia NORML was pleased with the progress for medical cannabis patients they do not agree with the governor on this issue.
In their words, “Instead of creating new ways to criminalize Virginians for a legal substance, Gov. Youngkin’s administration ought to focus on establishing the retail market for adult-use cannabis, ensuring that products are safe, convenient, and affordable.”
The truth of the matter is that you will never get all parties to agree on everything. While Gov. Youngkin has not gone as far with cannabis legislation as some would like it does seem as though his administration is trying to make some common-sense changes in the state of Virginia.