Gov. Ralph Northam announced his selections Monday to fill out the five-person board of directors of the state’s nascent cannabis regulatory authority.
Among them are three Richmonders: Neil Amin, CEO of Shamin Hotels; Rasheeda Creighton, co-founder of The Jackson Ward Collective and CEO at consulting firm The 3Fifty Group; and Shane Emmett, co-founder and former CEO of Health Warrior.
Amin has been tapped to be chairman.
Rounding out the board are Portsmouth lawyer Michael Massie and Bette Brand of Roanoke, who is CEO of rural development firm Strategic Consulting LLC.
The board will head up the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority, which was formally created earlier this month. The authority’s creation coincided with the legalization of recreational marijuana possession and personal cultivation on July 1.
The governor hadn’t named his choice for the authority’s CEO as of Monday. Northam’s picks for the board and the authority’s CEO will need to be approved by the General Assembly.
The governor’s office didn’t respond to a request for further comment.
The Cannabis Control Authority will create industry regulations and issue business licenses. The board of directors will be able to grant, suspend and revoke licenses.
Legal sales of recreational marijuana are expected to start Jan. 1, 2024, and the license application window is expected to open in mid-2023.
The authority is tasked with development of regulations prior to the legalization of marijuana sales within a legal framework that became law earlier this year.
That process, as well as the possibility that lawmakers could alter the current legal underpinnings of the industry, means the ground rules for the industry aren’t quite set in stone yet. State lawmakers must also reenact portions of the legislation.
Board appointees reached for comment Monday declined to speak specifically to questions posed by BizSense. They stressed it’s early yet in what’s likely to be a long and involved process.
“We are at the forefront of a long process of learning and collaboration with Virginians across the Commonwealth and I am honored to work with the administration, elected officials and fellow board members to develop a new state agency that protects public health and safety, while promoting social equity in the legalization and regulation of cannabis in Virginia,” Amin said in an email.
Brand likewise said it was difficult to comment specifically on the work ahead at this time.
“It’s really tough to go ahead and jump in on my thoughts on those kinds of things. We’re at the beginning of a very complicated and long process,” Brand said. “I think we have a lot to learn from other states, the good and bad.”
Emmet and Massie didn’t respond to requests for comment. Creighton was unavailable for comment Monday.
Appointments to other boards
The governor also on Monday announced his selections to two lesser boards that are part of the cannabis authority: The Cannabis Public Health Advisory Council and the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Board. His picks for these boards will also need General Assembly approval.
The 21-member Cannabis Public Health Advisory Council will advise the board of directors on public health topics such as retail marijuana and marijuana product safety, health warnings and public health efforts.
The council will also sign off on health regulations prior to final adoption by the authority.
State lawmakers will pick 10 of the members, and the council will have seven ex-officio members. Northam picked four of the slots, including Ngiste Abebe, who is vice president of public policy at Columbia Care. The New York-based company holds one of Virginia’s five CBD processing-and-dispensary facility operator licenses. Its territory is southeastern Virginia, and it operates a production facility in Portsmouth.
Another license holder is Green Leaf Medical, the Richmond region’s medical marijuana provider with a production facility in Manchester. Green Leaf was acquired by Columbia Care in June.
The Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Board is a 20-member body that will oversee the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund, a fund fueled by marijuana tax revenues and intended to bankroll workforce development grants, scholarships and other programs for communities disproportionately affected by drug law enforcement and disinvestment.
See the governor’s announcement for the full lists of the governor’s appointments to these boards.
Editor’s Note: For more on the potential growth of the marijuana industry in the commonwealth, tune in at 11 a.m. Wednesday to BizSense’s “Future of Cannabis in Virginia” virtual program. Click here for more information.