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Pricey Virginia medical marijuana driving patients to illicit market, study shows

Sticker shock at medical marijuana dispensaries in Virginia is spurring patients in the state to seek cheaper alternatives, according to a recent study presented to the Cannabis Control Authority.

That includes the illicit market in Virginia as well as nearby cannabis retailers in other states, Roanoke-based Cardinal News reported, citing the study.

A measure legalizing recreational cannabis in Virginia was signed into law in 2021, but efforts to enact the adult-use statute have stalled in the state’s General Assembly.

In the meantime, Virginia medical marijuana patients reported paying as much as $19 per gram for flower products in the state’s limited MMJ market, according to the 78-page report released Tuesday.

Those high prices compelled 90% of Virginia’s MMJ patients to try other sources, including “considerably cheaper” cannabis from unregulated “but not necessarily illicit” providers, Cardinal News reported.

Cannabis consumers in northern Virginia, for example, can travel to Maryland, where the average per-gram cost in adult-use stores is $9.27.

And in Washington DC, where loose regulations have allowed MMJ dispensaries to proliferate, the average price is $8.73 per gram.

In Virginia, 57% of MMJ patients reported growing cannabis at home while 65.2% reported acquiring marijuana “from a friend or family,” the study noted.

There are only 21 MMJ dispensaries in Virginia, or one retail outlet per 413,505 residents, according to the study – one of the highest dispensary-to-population ratios in the country.

Things could change in January, after newly elected lawmakers are sworn in and Democrats take control of both chambers of the Virginia Legislature.

However, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin has previously opposed efforts to roll out a legal recreational market.

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