Virginia Lawmakers Advance Competing Cannabis Sales Bills

Virginia’s legislative chambers are advancing separate proposals to begin regulated adult-use cannabis sales by next year.

Full story after the jump.

Lawmakers in Virginia’s upper and lower legislative chambers have advanced separate proposals to commercialize cannabis adult-use cannabis sales by next year, Marijuana Moment reports.

Cannabis became legal in Virginia in 2021 but lawmakers stopped short of licensing and regulating the industry, and the issue took a further backseat when Republicans took control of the House of Delegates and Governorship later that year. But Democrats recaptured the House in 2023 and lawmakers in both legislative bodies are now looking to revisit regulating the cannabis industry.

The House Bill

Lawmakers in the Virginia House of Delegates on Monday voted 52-48 — and nearly along party lines — to send a cannabis sales proposal sponsored by Del. Paul Krizek (D) to the Senate for consideration. Del. Chris Obenshain was the sole Republican House lawmaker who crossed the aisle to vote in favor of the cannabis reforms bill, the report said.

If approved, HB 698 would license cannabis cultivators, manufacturers, and retailers, and set a 9% tax rate for the industry. Controversially, the House bill would ban outdoor commercial cannabis grows. Additionally, the proposal would allow the state’s existing medical cannabis operators, several hemp companies, and up to 60 equity-focused microbusinesses to launch adult-use enterprises at the start of next year — although existing medical operators would be charged $400,000 each, which would be used to support microbusinesses through a proposed accelerator program.

The Senate Proposal

The Virginia Senate gave initial approval to a proposal for legal cannabis sales in a voice vote on Monday, setting the bill up for a final vote that is expected on Tuesday. SB 448, sponsored by Sen. Aaron R. Rouse (D), would set the maximum tax rate for cannabis products at 17.5% which includes a 12.5% excise tax, up to a 3.5% local tax, and a 1.125% tax to fund K-12 education, the report said. The Senate proposal would facilitate a general licensing period with retailers expected to open sometime in 2025; there are not any special carve-outs for existing operators or social equity operators.

Advocates say that lawmakers need to reconcile the proposals’ differences and reach a consensus for a final bill to send to Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R). While he has not specifically mentioned vetoing any cannabis sales proposals, the governor recently suggested that he has no appetite for enacting further cannabis reforms.

Cannabis possession is legal in Virginia for adults aged 21+ and adults are allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants for personal use, although there are not currently other legal means of accessing cannabis.

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