Virginia Republicans move to defund state marijuana regulator

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Republican lawmakers in Virginia want to cut nearly 70% of the Cannabis Control Authority’s budget, a move that creates further uncertainty for the state’s nascent legal marijuana industry.

Under a state spending plan proposed by Virginia’s House Republicans, the budget for the Cannabis Control Authority (CCA) would be slashed by $13.4 million over two years, Richmond TV station WRIC reported Wednesday.

The budget proposal comes after a Republican-controlled state General Assembly committee killed a bill intended to regulate the state’s impending adult-use marijuana industry.

Virginia has had a limited medical marijuana market since 2020, and adult-use sales were to begin Jan. 1, 2024, under a legalization bill signed into law in 2021 by the state’s former governor, a Democrat.

But new Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, appears more focused on regulating products containing intoxicating hemp-derived cannabinoids such as delta-8 THC than implementing a recreational market.

Observers said the proposed defunding of the CCA is part of a pattern of Virginia Republicans trying to undermine legal marijuana in the state.

“The Republican party in the House of Delegates has been an impediment for legal sales for cannabis,” state Sen. Adam Ebbin, a Democrat, told WRIC.

The House’s proposed budget amendment is not final and subject to negotiations “in the coming days,” according to the TV station.

The acting head of the CCA, Jeremy Preiss, told WRIC via email that the agency was blindsided by the potential budget cuts, adding that they “could undermine the regulation of medical cannabis and initiatives that address public health risks associated with marijuana legalization.”

Meanwhile, the Democratic-controlled state Senate’s budget proposal earmarks an additional $6 million for the CCA’s implementation of a regulatory structure for Virginia’s adult-use industry, the TV station reported.