Virginia’s House General Laws Subcommittee on Monday voted 5-3 against a bill that would have allowed adult-use cannabis sales to begin in the state later this year, DCist reports. The vote was along party lines, with Republicans blocking the bill’s advancement.
The launch of legal cannabis sales in the state is now unlikely until at least mid- or late-2023. The Senate had passed a bill earlier this month that would have permitted sales to begin in September – limited to the state’s current medical cannabis companies.
Democratic Del. Dawn Adams said during the meeting that the longer officials and lawmakers wait to have a regulated market, “the harder it will be to take control or even compete with that illicit market.”
“Currently if we don’t have a bill that gives us a well-regulated adult-use market amidst the back drop of legalization in Virginia, we are basically providing a year for the growth and strengthening of the illicit market.” – Adams via DCist
Following the vote, Speaker of the House Republican Todd Gilbert blamed Democrats for rushing to legalize cannabis in 2021, when the party controlled all three branches of state government.
“Let’s be clear: Virginia Democrats made a great big mess when they legalized marijuana without putting any regulatory or retail structure in place,” he tweeted. “We are left having to clean up their mess and we will not make it worse by rushing to fix it.”
Virginia NORML responded to the vote by describing it in a tweet “as a stunning failure of leadership on cannabis policy.”
In a statement, JM Pedini, NORML’s development director and executive director of Virginia NORML, called the committee’s disapproval an “extraordinary disappointment for Virginians who were loudly calling for access to retail sales to begin earlier than 2024, and ultimately a real failure by the legislature to provide for public and consumer safety.”
Virginia NORML also noted that some of the crimes temporarily repealed under the state’s legalization law will no longer be depenalized as the General Assembly has failed to reenact the bill as required by the 2021 reforms.
“…Multiple marijuana crimes in the §18.2 Code section are no longer repealed,” the organization tweeted, “and any crimes without specified punishments will default to a class 6 felony.”
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