CHESAPEAKE, Va. – For Norfolk residents Eric Cramer and his girlfriend Jo-Beth Strong, legalizing marijuana is welcomed news.
“It’s good for people like me who have epilepsy, ADD and people like her, whose bones ache because she’s wheelchair-bound,” said Cramer.
Cramer carries a cannabis oil card allowing him to use medical cannabis, but access to it is limited. There’s only one medical dispensary in Hampton Roads; it's located in Portsmouth.
But come July, Virginians 21 and over will be allowed to use marijuana recreationally, and more dispensaries could be within reach.
Legal sales won’t begin until 2024, but it already has Denise Foster, a former nurse of 37 years and cannabis nurse of seven, thinking of the possibilities.
“I would love to be available to be as a resource, as an educator, as a healthcare practitioner from that approach to help them understand how to roll this out safely,” said Foster.
Foster is also interested in running an independent marijuana dispensary out of her CBD shop. She owns Hemp Haven in Chesapeake.
“The number one priority here is education, making sure people have access to safe, quality lab tested products,” Foster said.
To become a dispensary, companies will need to apply for a license from the Cannabis Control Authority (CCA). The CCA will function similarly to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC). Its leadership team will be appointed by the governor and the General Assembly this summer.
Hemp shops might have a leg up in the approval process, but regulations still need to be figured out. The governor’s office said the work of writing the regulations will start this summer after the CCA is appointed.
“It’s really unclear right now where the regulations are going with this,” Foster said. “It’s one thing to do it quickly… safety has to be the priority. We need to understand who is going to have access; how they’re going to have access.”
A recent report from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), which oversees state agencies, shows the cannabis industry could create more than 11,000 jobs and have an economic impact of $1.46-$2.43 billion.