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Virginia's Cannabis Dance, One Step Forward, Two steps Back

By: Buz Deliere | February 2, 2023

The efforts of Virginia's cannabis advocates were quashed when state lawmakers put the brakes on a measure that would have opened the door for legalized retail marijuana sales. Despite widespread popular support, legislators could not reach agreement to make recreational pot use a reality in the Old Dominion State.

Despite strong public support, Virginia lawmakers fell short in their efforts to legalize the sale of marijuana for adults 21 and older. Subcommittees members declined two bills that would have allowed recreational sales, leaving Virginian supporters disappointed with a missed opportunity.

Following its introduction in the state legislature, HB 1464 – which aimed to create a legal retail marijuana market - was met with strong opposition from Virginia Republicans. Despite some support for the bill by Delegate Keith Hodges (R-Gloucester), it ultimately failed 5-2 at committee level.

SB 1406, a bill to grant marijuana licenses in 2024, introduced by Delegate Michael J. Webert (R-Fauquier), was sadly struck down by a Virginia House panel - preventing the Commonwealth from taking steps towards legalizing recreational cannabis use sooner rather than later.

JM Pedini NORML Development Director says it's,“another stunning failure of leadership on cannabis policy.”

Without a legitimate marketplace and regulations in place for cannabis, consumers are in the dark about how safe their purchases may be. Tests could reveal dangerous levels of adulterants and toxins as seen at the beginning of the NY industry. It is unfortunate that people cannot trust any assurances from vendors in this unregulated industry.

On Friday, the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee approved an amended bill allowing medicinal cannabis providers to enter into recreational markets as early as January 2024. Although a step forward for marijuana advocacy in Virginia, many activists are disappointed that this new measure would not become effective until nearly 10 months from now.

Virginia became the first state in the South to legalize recreational cannabis after lawmakers passed two changes to cannabis bills in April 2021. It was an important step forward for advocates of legalization who hope other Southern states will soon pass similar legislation.


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