Can Virginia’s Legislature Find a Solution To The ‘Strange’ Marijuana Laws in The State?

Can Virginia's Legislature Find a Solution To The 'Strange' Marijuana Laws in The State?

Anyone with a simple to obtain medical cannabis license can purchase a comprehensive selection of marijuana products that are strictly regulated by the Virginia Board of Pharmacy at a sleek new store named Cannabist in Richmond’s Carytown shopping neighborhood.

Right across the street, a vape shop has a sign advertising delta-8, which is mostly unregulated and likewise gets people high but doesn’t violate the present Marijuana regulations because it is made from hemp plants. A nearby grocery store sells a range of gentler CBD items that don’t cause intoxication but nevertheless come from hemp.

It’s now permitted to grow up to four marijuana plants at home for individuals who choose a more do-it-yourself approach. Simply look for seeds, which are still illegal to sell. Additionally, despite the fact that it is now legal to possess tiny amounts of marijuana, there is still no method to legally purchase actual marijuana for non-medical use.

Can Virginia's Legislature Find a Solution To The 'Strange' Marijuana Laws in The State?

The position Virginia takes on cannabis is more than a little bit absurd and perplexing, even in the eyes of many politicians who draft the state’s legislation. “I believe that most people would like the facts to be told clearly. Senator Dick Saslaw, a Democrat from Fairfax, stated, “We haven’t done it. It’s odd that you may legally own it but not sell it,

Clarifying Virginia’s marijuana policy is anticipated to take up a significant portion of the General Assembly session, which got underway last week, but it’s not clear if the two parties, who share power in the state’s divided government, can reach any significant accords.

There are also unsolved issues about whether Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a fervent Christian who is rumored to be considering a presidential bid, would be interested in signing legislation that may allow his rivals to label him as a supporter of legal marijuana in the future. Last week, when asked if he would approve a measure establishing a retail marijuana market in Virginia, Youngkin avoided the question.

Can Virginia's Legislature Find a Solution To The 'Strange' Marijuana Laws in The State?

“Right now we’re very focused on making sure the enforcement and consumer protection laws are straightened out with regards to hemp and delta-8, and we’re seeing products on shelves that are being mislabeled, and we’re seeing products that are targeted toward children,” Youngkin told reporters at the Capitol.

“I’m mainly focused on that particular measure. No other bills have I seen. The legislature may either find a solution for adult-use retail sales, according to JM Pedini, executive director of the pro-legalization organization Virginia NORML or “choose to continue handing control of cannabis in the commonwealth to unlicensed, unregulated operators.”

According to Pedini, if either chamber’s goal is the public’s safety, they will pass legislation authorizing the start of sales at authorized dispensaries as soon as possible. I was “left with this mess.” Todd Gilbert, the speaker of the House of Delegates and a Republican from Shenandoah, says he’s unsure of what the General Assembly will do despite the fact that several Republican lawmakers have introduced proposals to start retail marijuana sales in 2024 or 2025.

Can Virginia's Legislature Find a Solution To The 'Strange' Marijuana Laws in The State?

Gilbert accused Democrats of doing a poor job since they couldn’t agree on the regulations for a retail market when they legalized marijuana in 2021, just a few months before they lost a significant portion of their political influence in the elections that year. “They simply legalized it before leaving and announcing that they would return to complete the task later.

This is just a ridiculous method for making public policy,” Gilbert added. “And now look at the mess we have here,” Gilbert stated that while House Republicans would continue to examine the matter, they are hesitant to introduce a hastily drafted bill. If we don’t know what the governor would intend to do with it, the speaker remarked, “the big question for me is whether we’re going to spend a lot of time churning through this subject.”

The extent to which the state should make restitution to minority communities most affected by zealous police enforcement of drug prohibitions was a matter of debate when Democrats were debating how to set up legal marijuana sales. Progressive legislators and activists are especially worried about the perception that huge businesses should control the retail market at the expense of smaller business owners, especially Black Virginians who have been disproportionately affected by marijuana prohibition.

Can Virginia's Legislature Find a Solution To The 'Strange' Marijuana Laws in The State?

Democratic legislators had the idea of “social equity permits” that would allow Black Virginians, especially those with misdemeanor marijuana convictions, to participate in the new legal market. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus stated that completing marijuana legalization in a “socially responsible way” is one of its objectives during a news conference last week.

Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, stated that her party’s stance on marijuana has remained the same since the beginning: “We need to legalize marijuana in the appropriate way.” Because people don’t understand equity, there is a war against it.

Republicans’ marijuana legislation submitted to the House does away with the idea of social fairness but includes wording supporting the inclusion of “historically economically disadvantaged communities” in the retail market. Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, used the same phrase in a retail sales bill he filed.

Can Virginia's Legislature Find a Solution To The 'Strange' Marijuana Laws in The State?

Another significant issue presented by the several retail marijuana legislation submitted for the 2023 legislative session is whether to permit the state’s four medical cannabis businesses to start “transitional” recreational sales as the state works to establish a new retail licensing system.

Some measures would let medical dispensaries transition to ordinary shops as early as this year, but detractors claim that would give a few big businesses an unfair competitive advantage in the retail market. Cannabis regulation in Virginia is still fragmented, and several pieces of legislation aim to make it more simplified.

The state’s medical cannabis program will be overseen by the newly established Virginia Cannabis Control Authority instead of the Board of Pharmacy under legislation backed by Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Chesterfield, and Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington.

Can Virginia's Legislature Find a Solution To The 'Strange' Marijuana Laws in The State?

Ebbin’s bill would also transfer “controlled hemp products” from the area of food safety supervised by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to the jurisdiction of the Cannabis Control Authority. It’s not falling out of the sky. A recent recommendation for the creation of a registration system for companies that sell hemp products came from a task force on the subject chaired by the Youngkin government.

A bill has been presented to accomplish precisely that, enforcing a $1,000 registration fee for firms and introducing the threat of $10,000 fines for stores that violate the law. Some people in the hemp business have harshly criticized that proposal. The Virginia Hemp Coalition’s president, Jason Amatucci, claimed that this “puts every single retail organization in Virginia that wants to sell hemp goods in a very vulnerable situation and at a lot of risks.”

It’s excessive for a situation that is not as serious or as severe as they portray it to be. No matter what they try to convince you of, the sky isn’t falling. A hemp regulatory bill supported by the government is being sponsored by Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, who described the idea as “not onerous.” It’s simply a matter of registering correctly, according to Hanger.

Can Virginia's Legislature Find a Solution To The 'Strange' Marijuana Laws in The State?

“Having a methodical approach to ensuring that everything is okay” is the essence of what we’re attempting to do. A hemp regulation bill introduced by House Majority Leader Terry Kilgore, R-Scott, expands the definition of marijuana in the state to include all goods that have a specific level of naturally occurring or synthetic THC.

This bill also draws a clearer regulatory distinction between cannabis products that cause users to get high and those that do not. After a boy from Spotsylvania County apparently consumed a huge quantity of THC-containing delta-8 gummies, his death raised awareness of the brand’s products. More than half a dozen pupils reported getting sick from delta-8 gummies in October, prompting the dispatch of many ambulances to a middle school in Fairfax County.

Amatucci stated that there are other legal things, such as alcohol and over-the-counter medications, that can be hazardous to kids if not handled properly in response to safety concerns regarding children. It’s not necessary to shut down the entire sector because one child got involved in something they shouldn’t have, according to Amatucci.

Can Virginia's Legislature Find a Solution To The 'Strange' Marijuana Laws in The State?

By outright outlawing the sale of delta-8 goods, legislation introduced by Del. John McGuire, R-Goochland, advocates for a stricter crackdown than that preferred by the Youngkin administration. The main cannabis-related change of the 2023 session might be the state’s stricter stance on delta-8 and hemp without any advance toward the legalization of marijuana sales, depending on Youngkin’s or the Republican-led House’s decision to oppose a retail sales plan.

In Virginia’s 2021 elections, legalizing marijuana wasn’t a significant campaign issue. However, in the crucial parliamentary elections this fall that will determine partisan control for Youngkin’s final two years in office, voters may require members of the General Assembly to defend their beliefs.

Can Virginia's Legislature Find a Solution To The 'Strange' Marijuana Laws in The State?

The head of Virginia NORML, Pedini, claimed that House Republicans now face a nearly insurmountable roadblock as a result of Governor Youngkin’s lack of leadership on the matter. Although it’s logical to believe that he is aware that voters on both sides of the political spectrum strongly want legalization, his recent pronouncements have left Virginians, including his fans, perplexed.

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