Virginia House panel blocks measure to speed up recreational cannabis sales

Virginia’s House Republicans killed legislation that would have allowed existing medical marijuana operators and certain hemp companies to begin selling recreational cannabis in mid-September instead of waiting until January 2024.

A House subcommittee defeated the bill by a 5-3 vote along party lines, even before the controversial measure had received a full hearing, the Associated Press reported.

The Democratic-controlled Senate had passed the measure, SB 313, earlier this month.

The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Sen. Adam Ebbin, acknowledged that the House panel’s vote effectively kills the issue for this legislative session, which is set to adjourn March 12.

The then-Democratic-controlled General Assembly legalized adult-use marijuana last year but set retail sales to begin in 2024.

But a reenactment clause in the legislation required state lawmakers to establish a regulatory framework for the recreational marijuana market.

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While both Democrats and Republicans have expressed a desire to move up the 2024 launch date to suppress illicit sales, they haven’t been able to agree on how to do it.

House Speaker Todd Gilbert, a Republican, tweeted that Democrats “made a great big mess when they legalized marijuana without putting any regulatory or retail structure in place. We are left having to clean up their mess and we will not make it worse by rushing to fix it.”