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Former Lynchburg Mayor Chosen as Vice Chair of Public Health Board for Cannabis

medical cannabis Netzel
Tamara Netzel
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Medical cannabis products displayed here are already legal in Virginia. A group of public health experts and government officials will serve as advisors on how recreational products should be approached from a public health perspective

The inaugural meeting of the Cannabis Public Health Advisory Council was held Thursday, as the regulatory infrastructure for legal marijuana continues to be set up.

The Cannabis Control Authority will steer Virginia’s government’s regulatory policy but the council will serve as an advisory board alongside the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Board.

Two key concerns with legalization of marijuana are who is helped, and who is harmed by legalization. The Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Board was created as legislators wanted to make sure that communities of color that had been harmed by marijuana prohibition would see some of the profits from its legalization.

The Cannabis Control Authority will have to consult with the Cannabis Public Health Advisory Council before making any regulations regarding public health-- issues like how much THC can be in cannabis products, marketing near schools, and the sanitary standards for when cannabis products are made are under its purview.

Council members chose Michael Gillette to be vice chair. He was formerly the mayor of Lynchburg and works as a clinical ethicist. He toted that work as his qualifications to be the vice-chair of the body, as his work dealt with cannabis often, especially with Community Services Boards that provide behavioral health services in Virginia, and employers seeking to understand how cannabis use fits into their employment policies.

The council has 21 members, many of whom are government officials, as defined by law, which says the Secretary of Health and Human Resources chairs the council.

Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn appointed Gillette to the board. In July Governor Ralph Northam appointed four people to the board: Ngiste Abebe, the Vice President of Public Policy at Columbia Care, Larry Keen, an Associate Psychology Professor at Virginia State University, Dr Cynthia Morrow, the Health Director of the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts, and Marcus Treiber of Leesburg, the Chief Executive Officer, EMT Holdings LLC.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.