Virginia lawmakers OK adult-use cannabis, but will governor sign off?

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Virginia lawmakers passed two identical bills Wednesday to create a framework for adult-use marijuana sales.

The move comes nearly three years to the day after the same governing bodies sent legislation to legalize a recreational cannabis program to then-Gov. Ralph Northam.

The original legislation sought to launch adult-use sales on Jan. 1, 2024, but the market has been hamstrung since the election of Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who has signaled that he is unlikely to permit marijuana sales while he is in office.

If signed into law, according to The Washington Post, the matching bills would establish the a Cannabis Control Authority to “enforce regulations” and oversee “the possession, sale, transportation, distribution and delivery of marijuana and marijuana products” in Virginia.

The agency could begin accepting applications for cannabis business licenses as soon as Sept. 1, with retail sales slated to begin on or after May 1, 2025.

Also under the legislation passed Wednesday:

  • The amount of marijuana that adults can possess would increase from 1 ounce to 2.5 ounces.
  • Cultivating, processing or selling marijuana without a license would remain illegal.
  • Taxes for marijuana sales would be set at 11.625%, and municipalities could ban cannabis operations through local referendums.

Members of the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates are expected to vote on each other’s legislation Thursday.

Because the measures are identical, approval is nearly certain.

Less certain is whether the governor will sign the bills into law, given his past statements about the issue.

Last April, Youngkin’s changes to laws surrounding hemp-derived THC effectively gutted the state’s delta-8 THC market.