Virginia made history last year when it became the first state in the South to fully legalize cannabis, but a new governor and a re-enactment provision in the law could make changes to the original statute the General Assembly provides. agreed in April.
Karen O’Keefe, Virginia’s director of state policy: “Virginia’s legalization law…was somewhat unique” Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), Tell Cannabis Business Times. “Virginia can pass laws that require reauthorization, which means they do not take effect unless the legislature votes for them again.”
Outgoing Governor Ralph Northam Occurred The state’s adult use law became law last spring, after the General Assembly approved amendments to expedite cannabis possession and home cultivation provisions, which took effect July 1.
Under current law, adults age 21 or older can own up to one ounce of cannabis in public and can grow up to four plants in their primary residence for personal use.
Commercial sales are scheduled to begin January 1, 2024, by law, but until then, selling or buying cannabis outside of the Virginia Medical Program remains illegal.
“Every day we hear frustrated Virginians that even though cannabis is legal for adults 21 [and older]They cannot shop at already operating medical dispensaries unless they are registered patients.” NORML Director of Development J.M. Bedini, who also serves as CEO of the Virginia branch. In addition to accelerating sales through existing operators, it is imperative that the Commonwealth speed up the licensing process for new cannabis manufacturing businesses. Delays like this only bolden illicit market activity, while a regulated market can best provide consumers and public safety.”
While the July 1, 2021, effective date of legal tenure and home growth cannot be changed by the General Assembly, O’Keefe said nearly all regulatory details about legalizing and regulating commercial sales, business licensing, and taxation require re-authorization and will be limited to that. It comes into effect when—and if—the General Assembly re-represents or enacts an amended version of it during this year’s legislative session, which begins on January 12.
“Virginia is also somewhat unusual in that state governors sometimes don’t veto or sign a bill,” O’Keefe said. “They can do both things, but they can also request formal changes to the legislation that is presented to them, which basically means the legislature can either sign the changes or the governor can object to them, … and then they have to override the veto.”
With Virginia’s adult cannabis use law not yet fully enacted, O’Keefe said Republican-elect Glenn Youngkin, who formally takes office on January 15, “has a great deal of power over the details” over how the program will ultimately operate.
“Although cannabis was not an election issue for Governor-elect Yongkin, he has since made clear that his priority is to ensure that the regulated market in Virginia is competitive and thriving,” Bedini said. Details of what it might eventually look like must be agreed upon by the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-led House of Delegates. If the two chambers can reach a consensus and send a bill to the governor’s office, it will be at that time that he may introduce specific amendments.”
However, what these specific modifications may be may be less clear.
During a December 31 interview with Virginia BusinessYongkin said he would “not seek to repeal the Personal Possession Act,” but did not rule out making amendments to other aspects of the law subject to re-legislation.
“When it comes to marketing, I think there is a lot of work to be done,” he told the news outlet.
“I am not against it, but there is a lot of work to be done. There are some non-parties, including compulsory unions that are in the current law. There have been concerns expressed by law enforcement about how to actually enforce the gap in the laws.”
Regarding the social justice provisions of the bill, Yongkin told Virginia Business that “there is a real need to make sure that we are not promoting an anti-competitive industry. I understand that there are preferences to ensure that all industry participants are qualified to do well in the industry.”
Yongkin added, “He has every opportunity for minority-owned businesses and women-owned businesses [and] Military-owned companies. We also have to make sure that they have the capabilities to compete and thrive in this industry.”
While it remains to be seen what, if any, Yongkin formally requests changes to the legislation, O’Keefe is optimistic that his comments on minority and women-owned businesses mean he wants to support these entrepreneurs with technical assistance and funding.
“I hope it means that he wants to support these companies and help them thrive, but it could mean that he wants to have high capital requirements or something that makes it difficult for smaller operators to get involved,” she said. “What that means in practical terms, it’s hard to know for sure. We know for sure that he wants to get rid of business provisions and wants to make some changes regarding who is licensed and how.”
O’Keefe added that many of the social justice provisions in the bill do not require re-enactment, including language allocating funds to the Cannabis Equity Loan Fund and the law’s definition of social equity applicants, which are companies mostly owned by those with a prior relationship to cannabis. Convictions, those who reside in areas disproportionately affected by the ban and graduates of one of Virginia’s Historic Black Universities and Colleges (HBCUs).
“However, given that the core of the bill requires re-enactment — a lot of licensing and taxes — it is very likely that while these things are technically in the law, it is a whole package that will be negotiated in the Democratic-controlled Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Senate. Representatives controlled by the Republicans, the conservative.
Virginia’s legislative session runs through March 12, but if the governor requests changes to adult cannabis legislation after the General Assembly goes through the re-enactment process, the law may not be finalized until later in the spring, O’Keefe said.
“The bottom line is that tenure and cultivation by adults is indeed legal,” she said. The governor said he would not seek to repeal the personal possession law. I doubt he could do it if he wanted to because it’s already law and the Democrat-controlled Senate is still in power, and I don’t think they would veto themselves because he wanted them to. But details of how the regulatory system will work are still highly questionable and have yet to be signed. Any of that could change.”