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Virginia Wants To Speed Up Legal Cannabis Sales To 2023

Timid Republicans criticized the effort, calling it rushed. But Democrats argued racial disparities in enforcement exist

ACLU of Virginia

Virginia could be seeing legal weed sales earlier than expected, reports WRIC.

The General Assembly’s Cannabis Oversight Commission has agreed to recommend that Virginia speed up the timeline for retail sales of adult-use marijuana to 2023. 

Under a Democratic-controlled state legislature, Virginia legalized simple possession and limited home cultivation for adults earlier this year. However, they delayed retail sales all the way until 2024. Lawmakers included a reenactment clause to the bill. The clause requires a second vote during the 2022 legislative session to move forward with the legal market.

July 1, 2022 Sales Discussed, Dismissed

During a Thursday meeting, members of the commission raised the possibility of accelerating legal sales to July 1, 2022, with the state’s Board of Pharmacy overseeing the market.

Staff informed members that the Cannabis Control Authority, the regulatory agency set up under the legislation, would need until at least 2023 to set regulations for the legal market. 

The proposal, which the new General Assembly would need to approve, did not get much support. This was especially true after questions emerged over whether the Board of Pharmacy would be able to regulate the market for six months.

Commission Supports January 1, 2023 Sales

Democratic Sen. Adam Ebbin, sponsoring the Senate’s version of the bill, then looked around the room. Ebbin asked lawmakers on the Oversight Commission to raise their hands if they support recommending that Virginia move up retail sales of recreational marijuana to Jan. 1, 2023. 

It was unclear which members shared their backing for the new timeline. But Ebbin said during the meeting that seven members raised their hands, one did not and one member abstained. 

The shift to legalization looked to be a few years down the line. It instead happened only a year after marijuana was decriminalized in Virginia. Timorous Republicans criticized the effort, calling it a rushed process. But Democrats argued racial disparities in enforcement existed even with decriminalization.

GOP Could Block Implementation

Republicans are now in control of all three statewide offices. And control of the General Assembly is now split. So GOP lawmakers could vote down any of the commission’s proposals.

Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin said during his campaign that he would not look to repeal legalization.

Republican legislators have signaled they wouldn’t seek to roll back Virginia’s existing law. 

Do-Nothing Republicans Bitch And Moan

House Speaker-designee Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) said Democrats in the Senate left many unresolved issues with the legislation after deciding to move forward without a regulatory framework. Gilbert claimed the existing law simply enhances the black market for marijuana, ignoring the fact that it helps keep folks out of jail.

“They didn’t do it the right way,” Gilbert bitched of Senate Democrats after Youngkin’s victory. “If there is a right way to do it,” the backwards-ass conservative just couldn’t stop himself from adding.

“So, we’re going to have to fix all that and we’re going to work with the Democratic Senate to fix all that,” Gilbert awfulized. “And I imagine the roadmap that they laid out as to how that would occur, if they did it in the future, is going to change dramatically.

“But obviously, we’ve been left with that live grenade kind of rolling around and we need to fix it or else all we have is a black market,” he dramatically intoned, presumably stopping to wipe the spittle off his well-soaked lapels.

Final Meeting, Or…?

Ebbin said he expected Thursday’s meeting to be the final one for the commission.

However, members expressed concerns with several provisions within the legislation that the panel did not cover or make recommendations on.

These included changes to the existing open container law and other proposed reforms.

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