Virginia General Assembly panel recommends ramping up retail sales of marijuana through 2023
RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – The General Assembly’s Cannabis Oversight Committee has agreed to recommend that Virginia speed up the timing of recreational marijuana retail sales through 2023.
Under a Democratic-controlled state legislature, Virginia legalized simple possession and limited family culture for adults earlier this year. However, retail sales have been delayed until 2024 as lawmakers included a replenishment clause in the bill requiring a second vote in the 2022 legislative session to advance the legal market.
In a meeting Thursday, members of the Cannabis Oversight Commission discussed the possibility of accelerating legal sales until July 1, 2022, with the state pharmacy board overseeing the market. Staff assisting the commission informed members that the Cannabis Control Authority, the regulatory agency set up under the legislation, would need at least 2023 to establish regulations for the legal market.
The proposal, which the new general assembly is expected to approve, has not received much support after questions arose over whether the pharmacy board would be able to regulate the market for six months.
Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, then looked around the room and asked the Oversight Commission lawmakers to raise their hands if they support the recommendation that Virginia increases retail sales of recreational marijuana to Jan 1, 2023.
While it was not clear which members shared their support for the new schedule, Ebbin told the meeting that seven members raised their hands, one no and one member abstained.
The switch to legalization was due to take place a few years later, but only came a year after the decriminalization of marijuana in Virginia. Republicans criticized the effort, calling it a rushed process, while Democrats argued there were racial disparities in the enforcement even with decriminalization.
With Republicans now controlling all three statewide offices and control of the General Assembly now divided, GOP lawmakers could vote against any of the committee’s proposals. Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin said during his campaign that he would not seek to repeal legalization and Republican lawmakers have signaled they will not seek to overturn existing Virginia law.
Speaker of the House designate Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) said Democrats in the Senate have left many issues unresolved with the legislation after deciding to go ahead without a regulatory framework, claiming that the existing law only improves the black market for marijuana.
“They didn’t do it the right way,” Gilbert said of Senate Democrats after Youngkin’s victory. “If there’s a right way to do it. So, we’re going to have to fix all of this and we’re going to work with the Democratic Senate to sort it all out. And I imagine the roadmap they’ve laid out for how that would happen, if they did in the future, is going to change drastically. But obviously we ended up with this kind of living grenade rolling around and we have to fix it or else all we have is a black market. ”
Ebbin said he expected Thursday’s meeting to be the last of the committee, but members expressed concern over several provisions of the legislation that the panel did not cover or make recommendations on, especially changes to the existing law on open containers and other proposed reforms.