A week from today, medical cannabis patients in Virginia will no longer need to present a card at a dispensary in order to obtain their prescribed products.
That is thanks to a bill that was signed into law in April that lifted the requirement “for patients to register with the state’s Board of Pharmacy for a license,” according to local news outlet WRIC.
But, per the text of the legislation, the new law still maintains “the requirement that patients obtain written certification from a health care provider for medical cannabis,” while also directing the Board of Pharmacy to “promulgate numerous regulations related to pharmaceutical processors.”
The new law, which officially takes effect on July 1, is aimed at improving the efficiency of the process for patients to obtain medical cannabis in Virginia.
Once it takes effect next week, those patients will be able to obtain their cannabis products from stores as soon as they get a written certificate from a health care provider.
Along with “letting them avoid waiting for a license from the board, a process that can take months, the law will also allow patients to not have to pay a $50 application fee,” WRIC reported.
The measure was signed into law more than two months ago by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican serving in his first term.
In addition to removing the registration requirement, the law also “amends the definition of ‘cannabis oil’ by removing the requirement that only oil from industrial hemp be used in the formulation of cannabis oil.”
Cannabis advocates celebrate the bill becoming law in April, saying it will provide a needed remedy for thousands of Virginia medical weed patients. According to WRIC, data from “Virginia’s Board of Pharmacy shows nearly 47,000 total registered patients and thousands of pending applications, a backlog that has forced the board to hire new workers.”
“These legislative improvements will bring great relief to the thousands of Virginians waiting to access the medical cannabis program,” said JM Pedini, NORML’s Development Director and the Executive Director of Virginia NORML. “We hear from dozens of Virginians each week who are struggling with the registration process and frustrated by the 60-day wait to receive their approval from the Board of Pharmacy.”
Virginia’s medical cannabis law began in 2017, although it initially only permitted “patients suffering from intractable epilepsy to use some types of cannabis oil with a doctor’s certification,” according to the Marijuana Policy Project.
The program has since expanded to include other cannabis products such as edibles and bud.
Last year, Virginia went a step further when it legalized recreational cannabis use for adults, becoming the first state in the southern U.S. to do so.
But that law took effect under a Democratic governor and a Democratic-controlled legislature, and it also launched without a regulated market for cannabis sales in place.
As WRIC put it, that meant that “the commonwealth’s medical cannabis program became the only legal market for people.”
Youngkin took office earlier this year, saying that he had no intention of overturning the law that allowed personal possession, but the outlook for retail sales still appears uncertain.
“When it comes to commercialization, I think there is a lot of work to be done. I’m not against it, but there’s a lot of work to be done,” Youngkin said in an interview not long before he took office. “There are some nonstarters, including the forced unionization that’s in the current bill. There have been concerns expressed by law enforcement in how the gap in the laws can actually be enforced. Finally, there’s a real need to make sure that we aren’t promoting an anti-competitive industry. I do understand that there are preferences to make sure that all participants in the industry are qualified to do the industry well.”