While it is legal to grow, possess, and consume cannabis for personal recreational use in Virginia, it is still illegal to sell recreational cannabis. As things stand, only the state-approved medical marijuana operators are allowed to sell marijuana in Virginia. The fact that multiple bills introduced this session failed to gain enough support to establish a recreational cannabis retail market in Virginia shows that there is still significant opposition to legalization in the state.
However, with neighboring states like Maryland and Washington D.C. having already legalized recreational cannabis, some proponents of legalization argue that Virginia risks missing out on potential tax revenue and economic opportunities by not doing the same.
The Republican-controlled subcommittee in Virginia’s House of Delegates defeated legislation that would have opened up a recreational cannabis retail market. Senate Bill 1133, which was introduced in this year’s General Assembly session by Democratic Sen. Adam Ebbin, but despite his efforts to persuade his colleagues in the House to move the bill closer to consideration by the full House, the subcommittee voted without discussion 5-3 to table the bill and it is essentially dead for this year.
“It is legal to possess small amounts of cannabis, it is legal to grow your own cannabis. Yet we are kind of dragging our feet on establishing a retail market that could provide hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue, could provide a tested product for adults and could be kept out of the hands of children,” Ebbin said.
The bill establishes the framework for creating a regulated retail marijuana market in Virginia, which would be overseen by the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority. Under this bill, the Authority would begin issuing marijuana licenses on July 1, 2024. In the interim, certain pharmaceutical processors would be permitted to cultivate, manufacture, and sell cannabis products to adults over the age of 21, starting July 1, 2023.
The bill also transfers the responsibility for regulating the testing, labeling, packaging, and advertising of regulated hemp products from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority. Regulated hemp products are defined in the bill.
In addition, the legislation creates a process that would allow individuals who were convicted of certain felony marijuana-related offenses committed before July 1, 2022, and who are still incarcerated or under community supervision on July 1, 2023, to request an automatic hearing to consider modification of their sentence. Penalties for noncompliance with the bill’s provisions are also established.
There were two other bills that aimed to establish a recreational cannabis retail market in Virginia didn’t move forward out of committee during the 2022 General Assembly session. These bills were House Bill 1464, sponsored by Republican Del. Keith Hodges, and House Bill 1750, sponsored by Republican Del. Michael Webert.
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