Virginians legally allowed to use marijuana since July 2021 will have to wait a little longer before recreationally purchasing the drug. Lawmakers once again shut down policy that would have legalized retail sales in the commonwealth.
As the first Southern state to legalize the possession and cultivation of cannabis, Virginia appeared poised in 2022 to take the next step toward recreational retail sales. Partisan politics stonewalled progress last year, however, and on Tuesday, a House of Delegates panel spearheaded by a Republican majority snuffed out another Democrat-led bill that would have enabled retail sales in 2024.
“We are kind of dragging our feet on establishing a retail market that could provide hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue, could provide a tested product for adults and could be kept out of the hands of children,” said bill sponsor Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, before the subcommittee defeated the bill Tuesday.
Despite the law allowing possession and use of marijuana, cannabis sales in Virginia remain illegal beyond the walls of medical dispensaries. Numerous hurdles, including additional legislation necessary to establish retail regulations, must first be cleared before establishing such a marketplace. However, those regulatory efforts also have been shot down by the House subcommittee.
The result, according to The Associated Press, is a stalemate in which Democrats blame Republicans for stalling subsequent steps necessary to Virginia’s cannabis legalization while Republicans argue that their opponents created the present quagmire by being too quick to legalize marijuana without developing an adequate framework to proceed.
“We found out when we got in, it was complicated, and we needed to spend more time to figure it out,” Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, told the AP about the 2021 legalization. “Then we got a new governor who doesn’t want to talk about it. And all these problems are not going to get resolved until the governor steps up to the table.”
To date, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has remained quiet — and avoided questions — on cannabis retail legislation while championing a hardline approach to curtailing the flow of hemp and delta-8 THC — a psychoactive compound found in sativa strains of cannabis — into the marketplace.
“The bill I am tracking and looking for is a bill that deals with … consumer safety around those products,” Youngkin said in January. “And right now, we have products that are being mislabeled and missold and being targeted toward children.”
Such products came under fire in Virginia in November when Spotsylvania resident Dorothy Annette Clements, 30, was indicted on murder and child neglect charges after her 4-year-old son died after eating THC gummies.
Beyond retail legislation, a handful of marijuana-related measures remain on the table as the House session concludes, the AP reported, including a Republican-led bill that would establish regulations around cannabis labeling, packaging, and testing.
Any additional progress is expected to warrant a conference committee that would mediate the partisan divide.
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