Virginia governor vetoes adult-use marijuana legalization

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As was widely expected, Virginia’s Republican governor vetoed a bill that would have finally legalized adult-use marijuana sales in the state.

“The proposed legalization of retail marijuana in the Commonwealth endangers Virginians’ health and safety,” Gov. Glenn Youngkin said in a statement announcing his Thursday veto, adding that other states that have legalized recreational cannabis sales are following a “failed path.”

“States following this path have seen adverse effects on children’s and adolescent’s health and safety, increased gang activity and violent crime, significant deterioration in mental health, decreased road safety, and significant costs associated with retail marijuana that far exceed tax revenue.

“Attempting to rectify the error of decriminalizing marijuana by establishing a safe and regulated marketplace is an unachievable goal.”

Virginia legalized adult-use cannabis in 2021 with a bill signed into law by then-Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat.

However, that law required state legislators to reenact portions setting up regulated sales.

In the years since, a partisan logjam led by Youngkin has kept adult-use legalization bottled up, encouraging the emergence of an illicit market that some estimate is worth $3 billion.

Medical marijuana sales are legal in the state, albeit under relatively tight restrictions that limit business opportunities to one operator per region.

Those licenses are held by marijuana multistate operators.

This year, the Democratic-controlled state Legislature passed a bill legalizing recreational sales by 2025, albeit without a veto-proof majority.

Youngkin was clear he wasn’t a fan of recreational marijuana.

And after Democrats blocked a Youngkin pet project – a publicly funded sports arena – the governor signaled the adult-use marijuana bill was doomed.