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Changes to Virginia’s Medical Marijuana Program Also Coming This Summer

Marijuana growing at gLeaf, a licensed dispensary for medical use. (Photo: Alex Scribner/VPM News)

When recreational marijuana officially becomes legal in Virginia this summer, people who use marijuana to manage health conditions can expect changes to the medical program as well. 

Virginia’s medical marijuana program will be the only way to legally purchase marijuana in the state until retail sales begin in 2024. 

For existing medical cannabis patients, there will be some significant changes on July 1, the same day recreational marijuana becomes legal. 

Patients will be permitted to access a medical marijuana card with a telemedicine appointment instead of visiting a physician in person. Qualifying patients can consult with a physician, be evaluated and recommended for medical marijuana online. 

These telehealth appointments have been permitted throughout the pandemic and the policy will be permanent on July 1.  

There’s also no longer a cap on how many individuals a provider can see.

“It was very low, it was placed at 600. Less than .5 percent of Virginia’s medical providers will write a cannabis certification right now,” said Ngiste Abebe, vice president of public policy at Columbia Care, a dispensary in Portsmouth. 

Many physicians won’t write the certifications themselves because they work for hospitals that won’t allow them to do cannabis certifications. 

“So we’ve basically expanded the number of providers in a way that will also hopefully reduce patient costs because nothing about this program is covered by insurance,” Abebe said. 

The state has also expanded the program to include whole flower products. 

Virginia approved legislation in 2018 that gave doctors the authority to recommend cannabidiol oil as a treatment for any diagnosed condition or disease. It expanded on an existing Virginia law, which only permitted the oil as a treatment for intractable epilepsy. Later, during the 2020 General Assembly session, the legislature legalized medical cannabis -- creating protections against prosecution. 

Medical cannabis sales started in October of last year at Dharma Pharmaceuticals in Bristol. And by the end of December, gLeaf in Richmond, Beyond-Hello in Manassas and Columbia Care in Portsmouth were also open for the sale of cannabinoid oils. 

Flower products won’t be on the shelves for medical card holders, however, until September when the Board of Pharmacy implements new regulations. 

Virginia NORML’s website has a list of certifying practitioners.


Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.