A new study that takes a close look at Virginia’s medical marijuana program showed that many marijuana users are simply ignoring the program and finding the drug elsewhere.
According to the study, which was ordered through legislation passed by the General Assembly, “the Virginia medical cannabis program is struggling to capture patients amid evolving local policies as well as adult-use policies in bordering states, resulting in prices remaining high.”
The average price per gram for marijuana flower in Virginia is around $14, the study found.
On average, D.C. cannabis is significantly cheaper, with an average price per gram of $8.73. In Maryland, it is $9.27 per gram on average.
“The price of medical cannabis in Virginia is categorically higher compared to other medical cannabis states, resulting in 90% of patients purchasing cannabis from sources other than the Virginia medical market,” according to the study.
Researchers found that 57% of medical patients in Virginia obtained cannabis by growing it at home, and 65% of patients received cannabis from a friend or family member.
“Moreover, 12% of patients report traveling to obtain cannabis from other states or jurisdictions, most notably D.C. and Maryland, where prices are much lower,” the study found.
When researchers surveyed Virginia marijuana consumers who are not medical patients, 22% reported that they did not need to become medical patients because they already had access to cannabis.
Marijuana is legal for recreational and medical use in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia.
While the drug can be legally sold for recreational purposes in Maryland, it can only be sold legally for medical purposes in D.C. and Virginia.
“Virginia’s estimated patient enrollment reflects 0.5% of the total state population despite low barriers to patient participation, further supporting the finding that individuals can meet their demand for medical cannabis elsewhere,” according to the report.
The Virginia General Assembly reconvenes in January, and the report urged lawmakers to explore ideas that may “increase supply” of medical marijuana in order to lower prices and shift patient demand toward the medical program.
One possibility, the report suggested, would be to allow for additional marijuana producer licenses, which could lead to more dispensaries being established.
Existing producers can have a maximum of six dispensing locations, but that could potentially be expanded through legislation.