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Virginia's Plans for Legal Cannabis Dispensaries is on Hold Indefinitely

By: Marie Scarci | February 27, 2023

On Saturday, Virginia's hopes of launching a recreational marijuana industry were dashed as legislators failed to pass the necessary regulations before their legislative session ended. This comes nearly two years after the legislation was approved in 2020 that would have allowed adults 21 and older to purchase cannabis within state borders starting January 1st, 2024 legally - though now this projected start date has been pushed indefinitely back.

Amid the uncertainty of when recreational marijuana will be available for sale, Virginia made a historic move in 2021 that decriminalized possession with limits. Despite this progressive step forward by Governor Northam and the Democratic-controlled General Assembly two years prior, it remains to be seen how the future pans out for the citizens across the Commonwealth.

In 2021, Virginia took a significant step forward in the cannabis industry by legalizing the possession and cultivation of four plants. This move sets up recreational sales to launch no later than 2024 - but this timeline depends on legislators creating laws that will structure a regulatory framework for licensing, which the governor has no plans of doing.

Despite strong hopes, Virginia may be a long way away from allowing adult-use cannabis after the results of the November 2021's election. With Republicans gaining control of both the governor’s office and House of Delegates, Governor Glenn Youngkin has reportedly encouraged lawmakers to reject setting up an adult-use market for marijuana during their short legislative session – making it two consecutive years that this prospect is unlikely to become reality in Virginia.

In a surprise move, the Republican-led House of Delegates Subcommittee on Jan. 31 voted down their own party's cannabis regulatory bills that would have eventually led to legal sales of recreational marijuana in Virginia by 2024.

Senator Adam Ebbin, a Democrat, proposed a bill that recently failed to make it out of committee in the Democratic-controlled Senate, dealing another defeat to the attempt at cannabis reform.

Virginia's legalization of adult-use cannabis has hit a roadblock, with Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin playing an integral role in its stalling. To make matters worse for industry advocates, the GOP also proposed cutting funding to Virginia’s Cannabis Control Authority by nearly 70%, adding an additional barrier to any potential policy advances.

Despite Virginia’s part-time General Assembly only meeting for 30 days in odd-numbered years, the short legislative session did not stop lawmakers from convening this past week to discuss potential solutions. Sadly, however, with their scheduled adjournment on Saturday set in stone, any proposed alternatives were limited by insufficient time constraints and were unable to be addressed before their conclusion this year.

After the demise of adult-use cannabis regulation in Virginia, numerous multistate operators now find themselves at a standstill. Those with existing medical cannabis licenses and potential new market entrants alike are left to bide their time until clarity is established surrounding future legislative plans.

As Virginia fails to move forward with the legalization of its adult-use cannabis market, a chaotic and unregulated shadow industry has stepped in to fill the void. Illegal storefronts and pop-ups combined with untested products have created what Republicans and Democrats alike describe as an urgent public health concern.

Prosecutors are charging a mother with murder, alleging that her son's death was caused by legally obtained delta-8 THC gummies. The tragedy serves as an alarming reminder of the dangers associated with certain types of unregulated cannabis alternatives.

With citizens across the state demanding legal cannabis sales, Virginia Governor Youngkin has tunnel vision focusing on establishing regulations for the hemp market in an effort to address issues surrounding its production and sale. This leaves one to wonder that if the state had already set up legal adult-use stores for the citizens to purchase cannabis, would there be such a need for hemp-derived products like delta 8?

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