Expedited Cannabis Legalization in Virginia? Does That Mean Jobs Sooner?

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If you’re looking to work in Virginia’s legal cannabis industry, keep your eye on the progression of Virginia’s laws and regulations. As Virginia’s regulatory framework continues to develop, job opportunities will grow alongside.

According to Crato Insitute, a public policy research organization, in 2016, Virginia spent $81.2 million enforcing cannabis prohibition. New Frontier Data reported in their U.S. Cannabis Report that Virginia’s illicit market ranked the 4th largest in the country (2).

In 2020, cannabis was decriminalized in Virginia. And in the years leading up to decriminalization, cannabis arrests hovered between 21,000 and 29,000 per year. In 2019, there were 26,470 cannabis arrests (1). After decriminalization, the number of arrests dropped by 46 percent, down to 13,674.

Now, as of July 1, 2021, cannabis is legal in Virginia. This came as a bit of a surprise for some because the original plan was to legalize cannabis in 2024. But with a booming illicit market, and such high criminalization rates, social justice advocates like NORML fought for legalization to happen sooner. And here it is!

Given the last-minute push for legalization, it’s expected to take some time before recreational sales begin. So while the cannabis job market in Virginia is beginning to emerge, it may take some time for job opportunities for opportunities to spring up.

Why was cannabis legalization in Virginia expedited?

In February 2021, it was voted that cannabis legalization in Virginal would happen in 2024… a three-year wait. But with the number of cannabis possession arrests in the state of Virginia, that was an unacceptable timeframe.

After seeing how decriminalization impacted the number of cannabis arrests in Virginia, advocates like NORML were not going to allow Virginia to hold off on legalization for three more years (2). That would mean tens of thousands of more cannabis possession penalties over the next three years. So although Virginia was not ready to roll out its regulatory framework, they decided to move up legalization to July 1, 2021.

Since Virginia’s regulatory framework has not been decided on yet, they included a “reenactment clause.” The inclusion of the “reenactment clause” means the General Assembly will vote, next year, on major parts of the law – the parts of the law that will establish the legal market.

The Virginia General Assembly gathers in January of 2020. Image source: WAMU.org

Track Virginia’s cannabis legalization bill

What can you do in Virginia’s legal market?

Currently, cannabis legalization in Virginia is not about allowing people to go out and buy cannabis… it’s about reducing criminalization. Virginia wants to make sure that people who possess up to an ounce of cannabis are not treated like criminals. The next step will be regulating safe and legal access to the plant (3).

Jenn Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML, said to AP News, “The only legal sales of cannabis in Virginia is through the medical program” (3). It is legal for adults to grow up to four plants per household.

The rolling hills of Virginia: perfect for cannabis? Churchville, VA. Photo source: Scott Pruett

Although it’s legal to cultivate cannabis, it remains illegal for anyone to buy seeds or cuttings to grow. How can you cultivate cannabis without buying or selling seeds and cuttings? Sharing seeds and cuttings are allowed.

Virginia Mercury quotes Pedini saying that the goal for 2022 is to expedite adult-use retail access for existing medical dispensaries and by allowing the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority to start issuing new licenses (4). Medical dispensaries lobbied to be allowed to sell to recreational consumers… but lawmakers feared that would give companies an unfair advantage over minority-owned and small businesses (4). 

Learn about cannabis in Virginia at cannabis.virginia.gov

Virginia social equity in cannabis

According to Leafly’s Seeds of Change: Strategies to create an equitable cannabis industry by Janessa Bailey, Virginia ranks number nine on the list. But given the reasons why legalization was rushed in Virginia – to decrease criminalization – we predict the state will build out its social equity initiative. When it’s time to reassess major parts of the law under the “reenactment clause,” Virginia will have a plan to support small and minority-owned businesses.

As our industry continues to learn more about the history of cannabis reform in America, more states are understanding the importance of social equity in cannabis. It’s clear that Virginia is one of these states.

In regards to social equity in cannabis, it was a smart move for Virginia to legalize cannabis while holding off on deciding on a regulatory framework… Virginia wants to implement legalization the right way, on every level. Free the Plant, Free the People is gaining momentum.

The Virginia Board of Pharmacy gave four licenses to serve five different Health Service Areas (HSA) (5).

HSA I: Currently vacant. On June 16, 2021, the Virginia Board of Pharmacy voted to deny MedMen’s application.

HSA II: Dalitso LLC, recently purchased by Jushi, BEYOND / HELLO dispensaries.

HSA III: Dharma Pharmaceuticals

HSA IV: Green Leaf Medical of Virginia, LLC

HSA V: Columbia Care

Virginia Medical Cannabis Coalition

HSA areas of Virginia. Source: vmccoalition.org

How to find a cannabis job in Virginia

If you’re looking to work in Virginia’s legal cannabis industry, keep your eye on the progression of Virginia’s laws and regulations. As Virginia’s regulatory framework continues to develop, job opportunities will grow alongside. And while there are, of course, opportunities in Virginia’s medical market, the recreational market will bring a higher number of opportunities to more people.

Currently, recreational sales are set to begin in 2024… But advocates will be pushing to move that date up. So be ready!

In the meantime, you can check out the blog posts below to help prepare yourself for when cannabis jobs in Virginia start popping up. Because once they come, they’ll get scooped up, fast:

 

How to Find Your First Job in the Cannabis Industry

How to Find Work in the Cannabis Industry that Fits You

The DNA of a Good Cannabis Hire 

Cannabis Jobs Coming to You Soon: Best States to Find Cannabis Jobs

Which Cannabis Job is Right for Me? Take Our Quiz!

Then, keep your eye on the Careers in Cannabis job board to be the first to find out about when cannabis jobs in Virginia become live.

 

Resources:

  1. https://www.vsp.virginia.gov/pdf/Crime_in_Virginia/Crime_In_Virginia_2020.pdf 
  2. https://apnews.com/article/virginia-marijuana-legalization-business-marijuana-health-4733016bf78752816c0576936f9859c1 
  3. https://apnews.com/article/virginia-marijuana-legalization-business-marijuana-health-4733016bf78752816c0576936f9859c1 
  4. https://www.virginiamercury.com/2021/07/01/marijuana-is-now-legal-in-virginia-advocates-are-already-pushing-for-changes-to-the-law/ 
  5. https://www.vmccoalition.org/meet-our-companies 
  6. https://www.cato.org/tax-budget-bulletin/budgetary-effects-ending-drug-prohibition# 

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