Virginia adult-use marijuana launch in jeopardy as Republicans kill retail bill

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Virginia’s planned Jan. 1, 2024, start date for legal adult-use marijuana sales is in question after a regulatory bill was killed in a Republican-controlled state General Assembly committee.

The state in 2021 became the first in the South to legalize adult-use cannabis.

The legalization measure, signed into law by then-Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, called for sales to begin no later than Jan. 1, 2024.

But the legislation left the task of figuring out key regulatory details to state lawmakers – who, to date, have not done so.

Since then, Republicans have taken control of the governor’s office as well as the House of Delegates, the state legislature’s lower body.

Partisan squabbling similar to the party-line deadlock that’s delayed legalization in other states, including Minnesota and Pennsylvania, has for the second year in a row blocked legislation necessary to allow retail sales to begin in Virginia, the Associated Press reported.

The measure, sponsored by state Sen. Adam Ebbin, a Democrat, was killed this week by the same Republican-controlled House committee that earlier defeated a measure that would have directed a state agency to draft adult-use retail regulations.

The setback “was entirely expected, but is still disappointing,” JM Pedini, NORML’s development director, said in a statement.

Virginians still are permitted by the state to possess marijuana and grow up to four plants at home, but they have nowhere to buy cannabis products outside the state’s limited medical marijuana program.

State law allows up to five companies to cultivate and sell medical marijuana, though the issuance of the fifth license is on hold pending a lawsuit.

Virginia’s new governor, Glenn Youngkin, has opposed implementation bills, saying his focus is regulating products containing intoxicating hemp-derived cannabinoids such as delta-8 THC.