How will lawmakers balance pressure to expedite legal cannabis sales with the thoughtful creation of a framework that prioritizes equity? The Virginia Cannabis Oversight Commission, which is overseeing the implementation of legislation to legalize cannabis sales for adults, met on Wednesday for the first time since the General Election, during which Republican Glenn Youngkin beat out Democrat Terry McAuliffe. While the law allows for sales to go live in 2024, the Commission is weighing its options for an earlier start. One topic that came up repeatedly during the meeting: equity. “We’ve created an apparatus for folks to legally possess but not legally purchase. And so one of the things that we want to do is have a conversation with those who are invested in the community and in the industry,” said Delegate Don Scott Jr, who chaired the meeting. Lawmakers legalized cannabis in April. From some of the earliest conversations about legalization in the Commonwealth, criminal justice and equity have been front and center. When lawmakers passed the adult-use bill, former Gov. Ralph Northam tweeted, calling the passage a “monumental step to address racial disparities in our criminal justice system and build an equitable, inclusive future for our Commonwealth.” On Wednesday, as the Commission members’ discussion turned from delta-8 THC to the illicit market back to expedited sales and equity, lawmakers appeared hesitant to greenlight accelerated sales without specific promises of equity. Senator Adam Ebbin, the sponsor of the legalization bill that was passed, suggested that existing medical cannabis license holders could develop an “incubation program” for microbusiness licensees, which could be “one option to help assist with the social equity component.
Alyson Martin, Cannabis Wire, 11/10/2021 19:00:00