On Tuesday, Virginia state regulators met to decide the recipients of the state’s first five medical cannabis licenses. Their first decision was to close the meeting to the public, reports The Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The first meeting closure lasted 30 minutes. Regulators discussed Virginia’s public meeting laws and to what degree they might apply. Regulators re-opened the meeting following that discussion, only to immediately announce that the committee had decided “to consider the applications in closed session.”
While it’s standard procedure across the country for some level of transparency when business interacts with government, Virginia law is treating the cannabis license application process the same as a medical license application, which is exempt from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. Only original applicants can request a disclosure by the committee — not the general public.
Jenn Michelle Pedini, Executive Director of Virginia NORML, said that other states have considered license applications in closed session, but she favored transparency.
“We see time and time again that lack of transparency during the licensing often leads to lawsuits that delay patients’ access to medicine.” — Jenn Michelle Pedini, in an email to Ganjapreneur
While Virginia’s medical cannabis law is extremely limited in scope, the first license holders to market will have a first-mover advantage against all subsequent license holders, especially as federal legalization becomes more and more likely.
Editor’s note: This article was updated on 9/10 after receiving a correction via email from Jenn Michelle Pedini, Director of Virginia NORML.