Medical marijuana dispensaries in Virginia started selling cannabis flower for the first time this month, following approval by the state regulator.

Medical cannabis retailers in Manassas, Portsmouth, and Richmond were given the green light by the Virginia Board of Pharmacy to sell marijuana flower products.

Virginia’s medical marijuana program launched in the fall of last year, but the state’s medical cannabis laws required licensed growers to process marijuana into oils and tinctures before it could be legally sold.

That changed when Gov. Ralph Northam signed House Bill 2218 and Senate Bill 1333 into law in March. Under provisions of the new law, marijuana products legally available to qualifying patients now include “botanical cannabis.”

“Virginia patients are finally able to seek the relief they need with the products that work best for their symptoms. Botanical cannabis remains the most popular formulation among consumers and among older consumers in particular. Limiting patients’ options to extracted formulations was not in their best interests,” said executive director for Virginia NORML, Jenn Michelle Pedini.

“Botanical cannabis contains more than 100 distinct cannabinoids, many of which act synergistically with one another, producing an effect many scientists believe is necessary in order for patients to achieve maximum therapeutic benefit,” they added.

But while the measure took effect on July 1, 2021, it’s only now following regulatory approval and the harvesting season that cannabis flower is available for patients in Virginia to buy.

At the same time, many medical marijuana patients in Virginia are complaining about long registration delays and exorbitant prices in dispensaries. Wait times for an MMJ card issued by the Board of Pharmacy can be up to 12 weeks, while the limited number of approved patients and licensed dispensaries is serving to push up the price of medical marijuana for everyone who already has a card.

“Even though it’s completely normal to see higher prices in the early days of retail sales, it’s these two factors—limited points of access coupled with a small patient population — that are leaving Virginians with a serious case of sticker shock,” Pedini said to the Virginia Mercury.

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