Virginia Legislative Panel Kills Retail Cannabis Bill
A Virginia legislative panel this week declined to advance a bill to regulate retail cannabis sales, effectively killing the proposal that would have set the stage for recreational marijuana sales to begin by 2024. The measure, Senate Bill 1133 from Democratic Senator Adam Ebbin, was rejected by a House of Delegates subcommittee on Tuesday with a 5-3 vote along party lines, with the panel’s Republican majority opposed.
Recreational marijuana was legalized in Virginia in July 2021 with legislation that allows adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of weed and grow up to four cannabis plants at home. The legislation required another vote by lawmakers to authorize regulated sales of adult-use cannabis and set a target date of January 1, 2024, to launch legal sales of recreational pot. But so far, the House of Delegates’ Republican majority, which took control in the 2022 general election, has failed to support a bill to set up a legal framework for the regulation of recreational marijuana sales.
“It is legal to possess small amounts of cannabis, it is legal to grow your own cannabis,” Ebbin said before the subcommittee voted to kill the bill. “Yet 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.”
Ebbin’s bill, which is similar to a measure he sponsored last year that also failed to gain approval in committee, would have allowed sales of recreational marijuana to begin by January 1, 2024. Sales would initially launch in existing medical marijuana dispensaries and businesses owned by people living in “historically disadvantaged communities.”
The legislation also would have allowed the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority to begin issuing licenses for new recreational cannabis businesses on July 1, 2024. The measure was passed by the Democratic-controlled Senate last week by a vote of 24-16 that included support from some Republican senators.
On Tuesday, a General Laws subcommittee voted to table Senate Bill 1133 without discussion, likely killing the bill for the remainder of the 2023 legislative session. The bill could be revisited at a later date, but the proposal is probably dead until lawmakers reconvene in 2024.
Republican Governor Focused On Delta-8 THC
Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, a Republican who also was elected in 2022, has officially said that he has “no position” on legislation to authorize and regulate retail sales of adult-use cannabis. But a Youngkin administration official, Chief Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Parker Slaybaugh, spoke against Ebbin’s Senate Bill 1133 at Tuesday’s subcommittee meeting.
Slaybaugh noted that Youngkin is focused on developing a policy to control unregulated hemp products including delta-8 THC. Last month, the governor called on lawmakers to pass a bill that would regulate intoxicating hemp products.
“The bill I am tracking and looking for is a bill that deals with hemp and delta-8 and the regulations and consumer safety around those products,” Youngkin said last month. “And right now, we have products that are being mislabeled and missold and being targeted toward children.”
Advocates for regulating recreational marijuana sales say that failing to do so is largely responsible for the proliferation of unregulated intoxicating hemp products, which can be easily purchased throughout Virginia at gas stations and convenience stores. However, the House of Delegates has declined to advance two additional bills to regulate recreational marijuana sales in committee this legislative session, including House Bill 1464, sponsored by Republican Delegate Keith Hodges, and House Bill 1750 from Republican Delegate Michael Webert.