Lawmakers in the state of Virginia are in discussions to speed up the three-year delay between legislation of cannabis and the beginning of retail sales. The plant became legal last month in the state.

“We have legalized the use of marijuana, but we have not legalized the actual purchase of marijuana,” said Del. Paul Krizek, D-Alexandria, during the inaugural meeting of the legislature’s Joint Commission on Cannabis Oversight that took place on Tuesday.

“What we need to do is get the safe sales of marijuana out there as soon as possible.”

The commission members had outlined a proposal from the state’s four licensed medical marijuana producers to begin selling to recreational customers while the broader marketplace ramps up.

Virginia’s marijuana medical industry can only sell right now to patients registered with the state board of pharmacy.

“Every other state that has legalized cannabis has leveraged their existing medical market to not just increase access but generate the tax revenue and funds for social equity priorities,” said Ngiste Abebe, the vice president of public policy at Columbia Care. Columbia Care controls two of the state’s medical marijuana licenses.

According to Krizek’s concerns, waiting until 2024 to open the recreational marketplace would only boost the illegal market.

“People know it’s legal and they probably think they can buy it legally. And it’s going to become more and more difficult to explain that to the general public,” he said.

“We don’t want to facilitate an illegal market out there.”

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