That was the rallying cry at the Virginia Cannabis Conference & Lobby Day, which is taking place in the heart of Richmond until Monday. The incident demonstrated the extent to which marijuana, commonly known as cannabis, has become a cultural and economic issue in the state since it was largely legalized in July 2020, as well as the frustratingly slow progress achieved on certain important topics since then.
Clinicians, lobbyists, researchers, marketers, and politicians were among the attendees. Many others attended to learn more about Virginia’s marijuana laws, which have evolved slowly enough to irritate many working in the sector.
And those regulations are still absurdly intricate. It is permissible to sell it as a compound, such as an oil for the skin or a gummy, but only in specific bags and with specific warning labels—some of which are so extensive they can’t actually fit on the package.
Hunter Jameson, a lawyer and lobbyist who spoke on Sunday, said, “These are questions we still continue to wrestle with at the level of the legislation.” Virginia NORML, the state affiliate of the international marijuana advocacy group, held the conference.
According to JM Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML and director of development for NORML, the complexity is more than just a pain. The General Assembly did not authorize controlled access when it legalized possession. That implies that selling marijuana in Virginia is still against the law.
Illegal sellers have filled the hole in the recreational market.
The illicit marijuana market is currently valued at $1.8 billion, according to data from Leafly, a marijuana distribution, and education organization. Pedini, an outspoken critic of the legislature, stated, “1.8 billion bucks is not your friend who sells pot.” Pedini has urged it to take additional steps to widen the market to distributors who will take good care of their goods.
Pedini stated, “We have a legislative body that claims to be concerned about patient safety. Instead, we simply bury our heads in the sand, which supports the black market. As an illustration, unrestricted forms of synthetic marijuana made from CBD in hemp are available in mom-and-pop shops all over the Commonwealth.
Michelle Peace, a toxicologist with the Department of Forensic Science at Virginia Commonwealth University, remarked, “It’s a gray area. Local marijuana business owners also came to the occasion. RVA Cannabis Company, a recognized dispensary in Chesterfield County, is run by Milton and Jennifer Ares. Just a few months after legalization, in September 2020, the two began their business.
Their top-selling item is a topical pain ointment that contains CBD as its active ingredient. A component of marijuana called CBD doesn’t have the same psychoactive effects as THC. According to Milton Ares, the majority of his clientele are over 40 and come back thrilled to have discovered a new method of pain relief. Milton remarked, “It simply really demonstrates the therapeutic potential of cannabis.”
The discussion over marijuana, which some belief to be an effective substitute for potent medications like opioids, centers on the problem of pain management. But flawed data are stifling the conversation. Despite the fact that marijuana has been legalized or decriminalized in many states, it remains a Schedule I substance under federal law.
The federal ban makes it challenging for academics to examine marijuana as a potential substitute for potent painkillers or even frequently prescribed antidepressants. Del. Dawn Adams, D-Richmond, a nurse practitioner, said that when a patient wants to switch to a plant-based product, “the medical infrastructure just doesn’t support the patient.” “This is why setting a new date for this is so crucial.”
Since making significant early strides toward legalization under previous Democratic administrations, the Virginia legislature has moved slowly. However, the legislature is planning to introduce a number of laws that would fundamentally alter the sector. Speaking at the conference on Sunday, attendees raised the alarm about how some of those proposals might harm small-business owners and people of color.
Racial justice advocates remark that minorities have disproportionately suffered from prohibition for decades, therefore fair access to the marijuana economy has been a crucial goal for them. Paul McLean, the creator of the Virginia Minority Cannabis Coalition, spoke following a panel discussion on social equity and criticized a bill introduced by Del. Keith Hodges, R-Middlesex.
The word “equity” was “literally taken out” of Hodges’ measure, according to McLean. McLean admitted, “Yeah, I’m anxious about that cost. It would be detrimental to small enterprises as well as minorities. It would open the door for large corporations to enter and take over the Virginia market, including Altria and perhaps Anheuser-Busch.