Thousands of Virginians waiting to access the state’s medical cannabis program will no longer have to endure a two-month waiting period to receive their registration cards under new legislation that takes effect July 1.
The law, House Bill 933, signed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin on April 11, does away with the requirement that medical cannabis patients—or parents/legal guardians of patients—register with the state’s Board of Pharmacy. Instead, medical cannabis patients will only need a written certification from a registered practitioner along with a government-issued ID to obtain medical cannabis products at a state-licensed dispensary.
Showing proof of registration with the Board of Pharmacy (a medical cannabis card) will no longer be required.
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At the time of Youngkin’s signing, there were more than 47,000 program registrations with an estimated 8,000 applicants still awaiting approval from the Board of Pharmacy, according to reform group NORML.
As of June 29, there were 52,810 registered medical cannabis patients registered with the Board of Pharmacy and roughly 4,900 applications that required additional information or were waiting in the backlog for initial review, ABC-affiliate WRIC reported.
The new law will provide relief to those Virginians waiting to access the program via the wait period, JM Pedini, NORML’s development director and executive director of Virginia NORML, said in April.
“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,” Pedini said.
Diane Powers, communications director for the Virginia Department of Health Professions, told WRIC that the Board of Pharmacy will continue to process applications after July 1, even though medical cannabis cards will no longer be necessary under the new law.
Adults 21 and older have been able to possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis and grow up to four plants per household since July 1, 2021—reform that came after former Gov. Ralph Northam signed adult-use legislation in April 2021. But commercial sales remain limited to medical dispensaries as the new governor and 2022 state Legislature (with a new majority) continue to hash out the specifics of the full adult-use program rollout.
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Other medical cannabis program changes in the legislation that takes effect this Friday include the removal of mandatory active ingredient ratio mandates for product formulations, expanded technology that may be used in processing, and additional modifications that clarify the scope of producing and dispensing medical cannabis.
Ashley Allen, vice president of government affairs at Columbia Care, which has four retail locations in Virginia, told WRIC that the changes in the new law are important steps to modernize and normalize the state’s program to ensure products are more accessible.
“We hear from patients that [the Board of Pharmacy’s] lag time and that extra step often turns them off from actually going and getting their card, and so we do anticipate an influx of patients,” Allen said.
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