The Virginia Senate on Tuesday passed legislation that would allow adult-use cannabis sales to begin September 15, NPR-affiliate VPM reports. The bill includes provisions requiring the state’s three current medical cannabis companies to pay $6 million each to the state to start sales early and would let hemp producers start cultivating cannabis for the program for a $500,000 fee.
Other prospective retailers would still be required to wait until January 2024 to start selling to adults.
The legislation sponsored by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) also requires the medical cannabis firms to “incubate five qualified social equity applicant retailers for a period of six months or support and educate qualified social equity applicants that wish to participate in the cannabis market.” Ebbin told VPM that the social equity program would “ensure the little guy – especially those most disadvantaged by the prohibition on cannabis – receive the seed funding and startup support necessary to slingshot small Virginia businesses into economic success.”
Three Senate Republicans voted in favor of the bill but committees in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives have so far avoided taking up the legalization issue.
Advocates have warned that allowing some businesses a head start would shut out smaller operators and create an oligopoly in the state. Critics ranging from the Minority Cannabis Business Association to the libertarian-leaning Americans for Prosperity previously told VPM that Virginia is giving big operators a blank check by giving them a 15-month head start.
Currently, Jushi, Columbia Care, and Green Thumb are the only three businesses licensed to sell medical cannabis in the state. Columbia Care has estimated that the state’s cannabis industry could be worth $3 billion annually by 2026.
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