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Virginia Bill Legalizing Recreational Sales Likely To Die On Governor’s Desk

Emily Mullins

by Emily Mullins

March 8, 2024 01:54 pm ET Estimated Read Time: 3 Minutes
Fact checked by Kymberly Drapcho
Virginia Bill Legalizing Recreational Sales Likely To Die On Governor’s Desk

Virginia Democrats have been hard at work crafting bills to finally push through adult-use (recreational) sales in the state, where possession of cannabis and growing plants are legal, but citizens have no way to purchase marijuana products without a medical card. Unfortunately, it seems as though the bills that passed the House and Senate will not make it past Governor Glen Youngkin (R).

The Virginia legalization bill was given final approval by legislators mere weeks ago, setting up recreational sales to begin on May 1, 2025. Both lawmakers and cannabis advocates alike were excited about the proposal, feeling that it was a fair bipartisan compromise that would create an unbiased retail market, giving those impacted the most by the War on Drugs fresh opportunities.

The bill would also help people currently incarcerated for marijuana offenses by giving them an automatic resentencing hearing and a chance to have their punishments adjusted based on the new laws.

Possession of cannabis has been decriminalized in Virginia since 2021, highlighting the slow progress made in the state when it comes to this matter. For now, the illicit market is still thriving, and unsanctioned shops have begun popping up throughout the state to meet demands from consumers.

“I think this bill on its merits can stand and can get very broad support once people fully understand what’s in it,” stated former Republican delegate turned lobbyist for the Virginia Cannabis Association Greg Habeeb. “It’s about licensing sellers. It’s about testing products. It’s about taxing sales.”

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The bill will likely be blocked by Youngkin for an unrelated reason–because state Democrats vetoed his plan to build a professional sports stadium in Northern Virginia.

When Democrats unveiled the state budget without plans for the stadium, Youngkin balked at moving forward with any of their ideas. In his view, rejecting a bipartisan development project only sets the state back. “And, bluntly, you want to talk about putting a cannabis shop on every corner?” Youngkin said. “I don’t quite get it.”

However, Youngkin has outwardly never been a fan of cannabis legislation. “He just basically flat out said one of our biggest priorities he’s not willing to consider,” said Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell (D). “This governor wants to set the terms of every single negotiation as if he’s the sole arbiter of what’s reasonable in a bipartisan environment. That’s just not how it works… If he wants something, he’s got to give us something.”

People are still hopeful, as the 100-page Virginia cannabis legalization bill has yet to land on the governor’s desk. And, even if the bill is blocked by Youngkin, it could be reused to start future legalization efforts when his term is over (barring his reelection).

On the bill, Del. Paul Krizek (D) stated, “As those great philosophers Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin would say, ‘It’s up in smoke.'”

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