Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation, House Bill 2218 and Senate Bill 1333 amending the state’s medical cannabis access law to allow for the production and dispensing of botanical cannabis products. The measure takes effect July 1, 2021 and products are anticipated to be available as early as September.
Under the state’s existing medical marijuana law, licensed cultivators were required to process cannabis into non-herbal formulations, such as oils and tinctures. The new measure expands the pool of legal products to include those composed either of “cannabis oil or botanical cannabis.”
NORML’s Jenn Michelle Pedini, who also serves as the Executive Director for Virginia NORML, praised the legislation. “Botanical cannabis remains the most popular formulation among consumers and among older consumers in particular. Limiting patients’ options to extracted oral formulations is not in their best interests. Botanical cannabis contains more than 100 distinct cannabinoids, many of which act synergistically with one another, producing an effect many scientists believe is necessary in order for patients to achieve maximum therapeutic benefit.”
Medical cannabis dispensaries began operating in Virginia in the fall of 2020. If the pending legislation is approved, dispensaries are anticipated to have botanical cannabis available for registered patients as early as September 2021.
An operational improvements bill, House Bill 1988, was also signed by Governor Northam, to ensure patients in hospice and other residential facilities are able to access medical cannabis, and makes permanent improved telehealth allowances adopted during the public health crisis.
Separate legislation seeking to legalize the possession of marijuana by adults and license its retail sale awaits action by Governor Northam, who continues to offer his public support for the legislation, which is backed by 68 percent of Virginians.