Gov. Northam announces appointments to three cannabis oversight boards

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced Monday the appointments to three newly-created boards responsible for overseeing the legalization of recreational marijuana in the Commonwealth: the Cannabis Control Authority (CCA), the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Board and the Cannabis Public Health Advisory Board.

In April, Virginia became the first Southern state to pass adult-use cannabis legislation. On July 1, 2021, the new law took effect, legalizing simple possession and home cultivation for adults age 21 and older and sealing some marijuana-related records. The measure also created a new independent state entity, the Cannabis Control Authority, to regulate the cannabis market.

According to a release, the CCA will be led by a five-member Board of Directors, responsible for the creation of the adult-use marketplace for cannabis. The authority will have control of the regulated sale, transportation and distribution of marijuana and marijuana products in Virginia.

On Monday, Neil Amin of Henrico was announced as the Chair of the Cannabis Control Authority Board of Directors. He currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Shamin Hotels. Michael Jerome Massie of Portsmouth was named as Vice Chair, while Bette Brand of Roanoke, Rasheeda N. Creighton of Richmond and Shane Emmett of Midlothian were named as board members.

“The diverse range of backgrounds and expertise will provide critical perspectives to the Cannabis Control Authority and the important work that is ahead,” Public Safety and Homeland Security Secretary Brian J. Moran said. “I look forward to working with the board members as we begin this process.”

According to a release, in the coming years, the General Assembly must reenact sections of the commonwealth’s marijuana legalization bill and the CCA will be charged with implementing regulations before legal sales of cannabis can begin.

Virginia’s adult-use cannabis law dedicates 30% of tax revenue from cannabis sales to a Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund. According to a release, the fund will be managed by the 20-person Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Board and used to provide resources to communities that have experienced disproportionate enforcement of drug laws and economic disinvestment.

“We are intentionally constructing an equitable blueprint that will embed equity and inclusion at every stage and every level of the marijuana legalization process,” Chief Diversity Officer to Governor Northam Dr. Janice Underwood said. “The Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Board will serve as an important voice for Virginians and help elevate resources to the persons, communities, and families most negatively impacted by the disparate enforcement of marijuana laws and ensure that equity remains at the forefront of legalization in Virginia.”

Underwood was named Monday as the Chair of the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Board.

The enacted legislation authorizes the governor to make five appointments to the board. The General Assembly will make eight additional appointments.

The Code of Virginia states that the additional seven members will serve ex officio. The Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Resources, and Public Safety and Homeland Security, the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the Chief Workforce Development Advisor, and the Attorney General or their designees will have voting privileges. The Chief Executive Officer of the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority or their designee will not have voting privileges.

Northam selected the following individuals for the board:

  • Jorge Figueredo, MPP of Falls Church
  • Amari Harris of Richmond
  • W. Anthony West of Roanoke
  • Sheba Williams of Richmond
  • Vickie R. Williams-Cullins of Hampton

The third advisory group will be made up of 21 individuals, to serve as an expert advisory council to the CCA Board of Directors. According to a release, the Cannabis Public Health Advisory Board will assess and monitor public health issues, trends and impacts related to marijuana and its legalization and make recommendations. The Council must approve any health-related regulations before the CCA can finalize them.

“The Cannabis Public Health Advisory Council will ensure that health experts have a seat at the table as Virginia establishes a legal cannabis market,” Health and Human Resources Secretary Dr. Daniel Carey said. “I am pleased to serve alongside these dedicated and knowledgeable council members.”

Carey was named Monday as the Chair of the council.

The enacted legislation authorizes the governor to make four appointments to the council. The General Assembly will make 10 additional appointments.

The remaining seven council seats will be filled by ex officio members with voting privileges, as stated in the Code of Virginia: the Secretary of Health and Human Resources, the Commissioner of Health, the Commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, the Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Director of the Department of Health Professions, the Director of the Department of Forensic Science, and the Chief Executive Officer of the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority, or their designees.

Northam selected the following individuals for the council:

  • Ngiste Abebe of Richmond
  • Larry Keen II of Petersburg
  • Dr. Cynthia Morrow of Roanoke
  • Marcus Treiber of Leesburg

“Virginia is committed to legalizing cannabis the right way — by learning from other states, by listening to public health and safety experts, and by centering social equity,” Northam said. “There is a tremendous amount of work ahead to establish an adult-use marijuana market in our Commonwealth, and I am proud to appoint these talented Virginians who will bring diverse backgrounds, an incredible depth of expertise, and a shared commitment to public service to this important effort.”

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