Virginia Republicans open to faster launch of adult-use cannabis market

When Virginia Republicans took over both the governor’s mansion and the state House of Delegates last week, many observers worried that it could mean major delays in the launch of the state’s upcoming adult-use cannabis market.

The launch of recreational sales currently is slated to begin in January 2024.

But the state’s GOP lawmakers are trying to put such fears to rest, with several saying they might go the reverse route and begin adult-use sales even sooner than planned in order to quash the state’s illicit cannabis market.

According to the Virginia Mercury, Republican lawmakers – including House Leader Todd Gilbert – say they are aware they need to finish the job begun earlier this year by Democratic lawmakers to launch a rec market.

They know that, in order for the state to get a functional industry going, the Legislature must pass a version of the legalization bill lawmakers approved in February.

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That’s because the law, as it stands, has legalized marijuana possession and consumption but not licensed sales or production.

So a regulatory scheme and a licensing plan must be created under the GOP’s watch.

“You almost kind of have to,” Glenn Davis, a Republican delegate from Virginia Beach, told reporters, saying the state is “kind of half-pregnant.”

And Gilbert, the incoming head of the House of Delegates, told reporters last week that “we need to fix it or all we have is a black market.”

But divisions between the GOP and the Democrats over how to structure a rec marijuana market will almost certainly become a new battleground – particularly over a proposed social equity program that Democrats championed and Republicans scoffed at.