Virginia legislature votes to legalize marijuana

The Washington Post, February 5, 2021

The General Assembly's vote make it all but certain Virginia will become the first Southern state to allow legal marijuana sales.. Although both bills need details ironed out, Democrats who control the Senate and House of Delegates wield enough votes to send the measures to the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who has promised to sign them.

"It is historic, it is transformational," House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) said in an interview. "Virginia is changing, and some of these historic pieces of legislation — it's what the public wants."

The highlights:

Employee Protections:

House Bill 1862 prohibits an employer from discharging, disciplining, or discriminating against an employee for such employee’s lawful use of cannabis oil pursuant to a valid written certification. This bill passed the House on an 86-12 vote and is now headed to the Senate.

Operational Fixes to the Medical Cannabis Program

House Bill 1988 effects numerous changes to the processing and dispensing of cannabis oil by pharmaceutical processors in the Commonwealth. Dharma has worked closely with the bill patron to ensure our priorities are included. This bill will improve operational efficiencies and ultimately reduce patient costs. This bill passed the House on an 99-0 vote and is now headed to the Senate.

Adding flower (botanical cannabis) to the Medical Cannabis Program

House Bill 2218 and Senate Bill 1333 will allow Dharma to dispense flower (i.e. botanical cannabis) to patients. This will provide patients with a lower cost product and will increase our sales. Most every patient that visits our facility asks about access to flower so this has been our top priority. House Bill 2218 passed on an 93-3 vote and Senate Bill 1333 passed on an 32-5 vote. There are minor technical differences in the bills that will be ironed out before final passage.

Adult Use

The 2 bills are not the same and the 2 chambers have some substantial differences in how they are setting up licensing structure, legalization, criminal justice reforms and expungement, and the timelines for the entire program and process. The bills have now “crossed over” and will be heard in the opposite chamber where the Senate will amend the House bill to its preferences and the House will amend the Senate bill to its preferences. The bills will then go to a conference committee made up of members of the House and Senate to finalize the legislative proposal for final voting. We expect the legislation to continue to change as the process unfolds and are working closely with the bill patrons to ensure that the medical program is expressly included in the adult use regulatory scheme.

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