The governor of Virginia signed legislation to amend the state’s medical marijuana law in order to allow for the production and sale of cannabis flower to qualifying patients.

Under Virginia’s existing medical marijuana laws, patients are limited to non-herbal products such as oils, edibles and vape cartridges with a maximum dose of 10 milligrams of THC. The new amendment, which takes effect on July 1, expands access to “botanical cannabis.”

“Botanical cannabis remains the most popular formulation among consumers and among older consumers in particular. Limiting patients’ options to extracted oral formulations is not in their best interests,” said Virginia NORML’s executive director 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.”

Gov. Ralph Northam signed another medical marijuana bill into law as well. HB 1988 ensures medical cannabis access for hospice patients and others in residential facilities, while permitting telehealth consultations for medical cannabis recommendations.

Virginia approved legislation legalizing CBD in 2019, with three other medical marijuana bills to expand patient access passing into law several months later. The first medical cannabis dispensaries opened in Virginia in late 2020. These dispensaries are expected to have the first batches of marijuana flower available for sale by September 2021.

In the meantime, Gov. Ralph Northam and lawmakers in Virginia’s General Assembly have been pushing to legalize adult-use cannabis. The legislature approved bills to legalize possession for adults 21 and older, and establish a legal retail cannabis market, with a final version now awaiting Northam’s signature. An accompanying fiscal analysis to the bill estimates a legal marijuana market with a 30 percent tax on recreational sales would generate around $183 million in annual revenue.

However, marijuana reform advocates remain concerned at the delayed start date for the law change, which is currently set for summer 2024.

Marijuana Policy Project has called on the governor to bring the start date for legal sales forward before signing the bill into law. They’ve also requested Gov. Northam asks for the removal of a provision that would continue to criminalize those who bring small amounts of cannabis into Virginia from other states.

Gov. Northam has until the end of March to act on the marijuana legalization bill.