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State leaders fill regulatory boards that will oversee marijuana legalization
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State leaders fill regulatory boards that will oversee marijuana legalization

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Virginia’s upcoming recreational marijuana market will be subject to intense regulation from state officials, namely, a new regulatory board filled out by Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday.

The Cannabis Control Authority will work to launch Virginia’s new adult-use marijuana market in 2024 and ensure subsequent compliance with state rules. Northam on Monday named five people to the authority’s board of directors, which has legal power over the agency.

The five people who will sit on the board are:

  • Neil Amin of Henrico County, the CEO of hotel operator Shamin Hotels, will serve as the chair of the board. Shamin Hotels, based in Richmond, owns and operates over 60 hotels across six states. Amin previously worked for Goldman Sachs and has served on the Virginia Treasury Board, the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority and the Governor’s Advisory Council on Revenue Estimates. (Shamin Hotels owns the building in which the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s downtown offices are located.)
  • Michael Jerome Massie, a lawyer from Portsmouth, will be the vice chair of the board. Massie, a trial lawyer with his own practice, previously worked as a prosecutor for the city of Portsmouth.
  • Bette Brand of Roanoke, a former official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will serve on the board. Brand is the CEO of Strategic Consulting LLC in Roanoke. Before that, Brand worked as deputy undersecretary for rural development, administrator of rural business cooperative services and acting administrator of rural utility services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • Rasheeda N. Creighton of Richmond, the co-founder of The Jackson Ward Collective, a business incubator focused on Black-owned businesses, will serve as a member. Creighton was previously the executive director of Capital One’s 1717 Innovation Center, a collaborative workplace in Richmond.
  • Shane Emmett of Midlothian, the co-founder and former CEO of Health Warrior, a Richmond-based energy bar maker acquired by PepsiCo in 2018, will serve as a member. Emmett, an adviser to venture and private equity firms, is an entrepreneur in residence at the University of Richmond. Emmett previously served as an attorney in the Office of the Counselor to Gov. Tim Kaine.

The board will work alongside the new Cannabis Control Authority’s CEO, who will be selected by Northam in the coming weeks.

On July 1, Virginia kicked off a yearslong process to legalize recreational cannabis in the state, becoming the first state in the South to do so. Adults 21 and older can now legally possess marijuana and consume the drug in private.

Selling marijuana will continue to be illegal until the state launches the regulated legal market in 2024, issuing licenses for growing, processing and retail sales.

Democratic lawmakers in the state say they were driven by the disparate enforcement of marijuana laws, which resulted in unequal harm to Black people in the state. Through legislation and regulation still in the works, Virginia Democrats have promised to ensure people disparately affected by marijuana enforcement can benefit from the legal market.

Reinvestment and public health boards

Two other boards will play a key role in Virginia’s plan to legalize marijuana.

The Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Board will be tasked with doling out 30% of tax revenues from cannabis sales to communities that faced disproportionate enforcement of marijuana laws — specifically, Black people, families and communities in the state.

Northam and the legislature named 13 people to the 20-person board. Seven state officials will serve on the board in their official capacities.

The appointees are Jorge Figueredo of Falls Church; Amari Harris of Richmond; W. Anthony West of Roanoke; Sheba Williams of Richmond; Vickie R. Williams-Cullins of Hampton; Nancy Toscano of Midlothian; Penni Sweetenburg-Lee of North Chesterfield; Cassandra Newby-Alexander of Chesapeake; Vernon Green Jr. of Stafford County; Paul McLean of Hampton; Keisha Smith of Richmond; Michelle Riddick Hamilton of Hampton; and Henry Estes of Chesapeake.

Northam and legislative leaders also made appointments to the new Cannabis Public Health Advisory Board, a 21-person panel that will study the impacts of marijuana legalization on public health. The board will issue binding guidance to the Cannabis Control Authority on regulations related to public health.

The advisory board will include Ngiste Abebe of Richmond; Larry Keen II of Petersburg; Cynthia Morrow of Roanoke; Marcus Treiber of Leesburg; Paul Kalchbrenner of Arlington County; Jimmy Christmas of Richmond; Michael Gillette of Lynchburg; Teresa Brogan of Springfield; Michael Krawitz of Elliston in Montgomery County; Jerome Barber of Hampton; Karin Addison of Midlothian; Kyzwana Caves of Norfolk; Christina Barrille of Richmond; and John Whyte of Great Falls.

They will work alongside seven state officials who will also serve on the board, including the secretary of health and human resources, who is now Dan Carey.

Cannabis attorney

Attorney General Mark Herring said Monday that he is seeking applications for the state’s first Virginia cannabis attorney. The attorney will advise the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority as it tries to draft policy.

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