Many small cannabis entrepreneurs say large companies are jockeying to lock them out of the industry and have funding that gives them more access to lawmakers.
"Small businesses are the backbone of the country," said Sarah Grant, general manager of The Dispensary in Richmond. The shop opened last year and sells Delta-8-THC flower and vape cartridges. "It's hard to compete if you're going against the Walmart of cannabis," Grant said.
Grant said the lack of structure in the adult-use cannabis market is stressful for smaller businesses and that her store could never compete with lobbyists from national cannabis corporations.
New lobbying clients, special interest groups, and investors have entered the arena over the past four years as Virginia lawmakers grappled with medical and adult-use cannabis legislation. State lawmakers decriminalized simple possession of cannabis in 2021 with initial plans to legalize recreational cannabis by 2024—though that floundered in this year's session. Potential sellers were left in limbo, and parts of the legislation needed to be reenacted or passed again the next year before becoming law.
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