MCBA joins Marijuana Equity Advocates to Call on Virginia Legislators to Stop Exclusive Early Adult-Use Market Access for Medical Operators 


Virginia’s latest legalization bill proposes to continue the War on Drugs by including new possession crimes, while granting a head start to the same institutions who continue to manufacture exclusion and enforcement. 

Multiple bills before the assembly aim to allow exclusive early sales for current medical operators and hemp processors by accelerating the adult-use market by one year. We, the undersigned, oppose exclusive early sales. Speeding up the market is not only unsafe, but it negatively impacts the implementation of social equity programs. This move will deny the people who bore the brunt of the War on Drugs opportunities to join the legal cannabis industry.

In fact, according to a recently published report, social equity operators contribute a return of 20 cents for each dollar and support the operators’ communities. By leaving out social equity operators and giving advantages to medical cannabis corporations, legislators not only go back on their promise to ensure a place in the industry for those most impacted by cannabis prohibition but they put the opportunity for a 20% social return on investment at risk.

Instead, legislators are proposing to give medical operators exclusive first-mover advantage. Despite claims this would deter the unregulated market, there are no examples this would be true. In fact, there is ample evidence to the contrary.  Limited markets with insurmountable barriers to entry for small businesses have led to the proliferation of the unregulated market. With teams of lawyers and lobbyists on hand, large operators have turned temporary solutions into flourishing oligopolies. Three years after Illinois granted medical retailers a head start, not one social equity retailer has opened their doors. Early and exclusive market capture by a handful of large companies have consistently undermined efforts to create an equitable and diverse industry supported by small local businesses. 

The current proposals will also re-criminalize marijuana by adding new possession crimes punishable with high fines and imprisonment. For decades, the data shows that Black and brown residents have been penalized at least 4 times the rate as white people in the Commonwealth. The new misdemeanors and felonies will undoubtedly be carried out on Black residents in Virginia, continuing the Drug War.

It is in our best interest to ensure the social equity is at the forefront of cannabis industry supported by national research, therefore, we are recommending the following:

  1. The removal of any new crimes for possession of cannabis including the proposed misdemeanor and felony charges that lead to fines of up to $1,000 and up to 10 years in prison. 
  2. Meaningful and timely resentencing timeline for those who would be eligible for parole
  3. Virginia adult-use sales commence in 2024 as originally proposed and ensure provisions for social applicants to have priority status in the application process. Deny exclusive early market sales until social equity operators can launch at the same ratio as medical operators. 
  4. Funding from the Social Equity Incubator Loan should be made grants that are available for social equity operators to open Day 1. 

Supporting organizations for this letter include: 

Marijuana Justice

Minority Cannabis Business Association

Justice Forward Virginia

Drug Policy Alliance

Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition (CRCC)

Minorities For Medical Marijuana

Carter Farms

Black Lives Matter 804

RISE for Youth

Virginia Student Power Network

Bridging the Gap Virginia

Resource Information Help for the Disadvantaged and Disenfranchised (RIHD)

Freedom For Felons

Willipo Farms 

Help Me Help You

Women Grow 

CannAtlantic Conference

Philadelphia CannaBusiness Association

Blaze Responsibly 

Supernova Women

Black Cannabis Week


Parabola Center

Equity and Transformation (E.A.T)

Students for Sensible Drug Policy

Black Freedom Collective

ACLU of Virginia

Mommies and Mary Jane

Cannabis Equity Consultants, LLC

Hopscotch LLC

Virginians Against Drug Violence

Neighborhood Resource Center 

Diasporic Alliance for Cannabis  Opportunities (DACO)

Va Black Leaders Round Table

Lending Hands


Richmond Crusade for Voters

Virginia Alliance Against Mass Incarceration

Cannabis Equity Coalition of Virginia