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Virginia's Medical Cannabis Program moves to new oversight

Marijuana plants at a grow house in Denver are ready to be harvested.
Ed Andrieski
Marijuana plants at a grow house in Denver are ready to be harvested.

A new year means a change in the way Virginia oversees its Medical Cannabis program. It’s now the sole responsibility of a single stage agency, rather than one with a number of duties.

The transition from the Virginia Board of Pharmacy to the Cannabis Control Authority is expected to not only help patients quickly access safe, regulated products, but also pick up on what other states are doing.

Acting Head Jeremy Preiss says the CCA is a member of the Cannabis Regulators Association. It helps to establish policy in more than 40 states.

"It (the CRA) is also something we hope can leverage to the best ideas out there on how to regulate medical cannabis, so it is maximally accessible to patients," Priess said. "I think you're going to see a greater focus on responsiveness, transparency, and availability, accessibility to stakeholders in the medical cannabis space."

JM Pedini, Executive Director with the cannabis advocacy group Virginia NORML says the Control Authority’s ability to collect data should also move the program forward.

"It was really limited under the Board of Pharmacy, and the Cannabis Control Authority appears to be ready and willing to take a deeper dive into what's going on with Virginia patients, and how to better serve them," they said.

Pedini said the CCA's research through the Regulators Association should enable it to glean best practices from around the country.

When the Medical Cannabis Program launched a few years ago, patients had to get a card through the Board of Pharmacy, after a doctor’s recommendation, in order to purchase from a dispensary.

Without a state-mandated registration, lifted by lawmakers in 2022, or a specific list of medical conditions, Pedini now calls Virginia’s program among the best in the country.

They expect advances in the General Assembly as well.

"Every single year, we have a piece of legislation introduced that looks to improve the program, both from a patient's standpoint, and from an operator standpoint. We're in a good position right now where we can combine these objectives into one bill."

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

Jeff Bossert is Radio IQ's Morning Edition host.