Virginia looks poised to legalize adult-use cannabis market

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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration announced an adult-use cannabis legalization plan that would impose a 21% excise tax and provide some licensing preferences for individuals and entities harmed by the war on drugs.

Adult-use marijuana sales would begin Jan. 1, 2023, under the proposal, which looks as if it has a good chance of succeeding in this year’s Legislature, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Northam, a Democrat, said in November he would press for an adult-use marijuana program.

Virginia is among the states eyeing legal marijuana as a way to boost tax revenues to help offset the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Voter approval of adult-use legalization in New Jersey in November also has put pressure on states in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions to act.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week renewed his push for recreational marijuana legalization in his state.

The Virginia measure is expected to receive broad support from lawmakers. Both the state House and Senate are controlled by Democrats, and Virginia’s Black Caucus on Wednesday endorsed the administration’s proposal, the Times-Dispatch reported.

The legalization plan, which seeks to help communities most impacted by past enforcement of marijuana laws, would include some low- and no-interest loans and fee waivers for eligible individuals and entities.

Sales reportedly would be limited to an ounce of marijuana.

Local jurisdictions would be able to add a tax of up to 3%. The overall tax rate would be roughly 30% when adding the 21% excise tax, local sales taxes and the optional local tax.

Virginia launched a limited medical marijuana program in October 2020.

The state limited licenses to five vertical operations, making the market attractive to licensees who also are eyeing adult use.