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Virginia Senate votes against governor’s amendment to criminalize cannabis possession

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Recently sent the Virginia Senate Senate Bill 591 to the Rehabilitation and Social Services Commission, and will not be considered after the end of the 2022 legislative session, As of March 12. A final vote was held on April 27, with a 20-20 vote, and a tie vote by Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears.

If passed, the bill would have prohibited eating cannabis “in the form of a human, animal, vehicle or fruit,” as well as banning Delta-8 THC products. In addition, the bill included penalties for anyone who was in possession of more than an ounce of cannabis.

Former Democratic Governor Ralph Northham signed legislation to legalize cannabis in April 2021, which went into effect on July 1, 2021. Northam ended his career as governor in January 2022, and was replaced by current Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin.

SB-591 was introduced by Senator Emmett W. Hunger, Jr Which initially received support, particularly with regard to preventing hemp foods from attracting children. “It was the right thing to do,” backing Senator Adam Eben said of the original text of the bill.

But, right Now She stated that when the bill was sent to Youngkin’s office for signature, he returned it with several amendments that changed the bill’s regulations regarding CBD and Delta-8 THC products and added penalties for possession above the legal limit. “The portfolio adjustments were poorly crafted, not well thought out, and left a lot of loopholes,” Eben said. “The original bill was better.”

“The government’s proposed penalties for personal possession of two ounces of marijuana were more punitive than laws that were in place before Virginia’s enactment of decriminalization in 2020,” he added.

Ebbin’s own bill, Senate Bill 391, was also proposed in the 2022 legislative session, and passed in the Senate but not in the House. His bill opened the regulations for existing medical cannabis dispensaries to begin selling recreational cannabis. He is also the chair of the Cannabis Oversight Committee, which will review both SB-591 and SB-391 for discussion in 2023.

“I have learned not to be overly optimistic in this area,” Eben said. “This is a product that is now legal for adults 21 and older. Therefore, it is in our best interest to ensure this is a tested and regulated product.”

NORML Director of Development and Executive Director of Virginia NORML, J.M. Pedini, shared a statement that they are pleased that the SB-519 has not been passed with its current modifications, but are disappointed that regulations in Virginia will have to wait another year to be discussed. Their statement also suggested that the governor “must effectively serve his constituents” while enforcing strict regulations for the cannabis industry.

“Sending SB-591 back to the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee is not in the interest of public health or safety,” Bedene said. “By not taking legislative action, non-regulated products containing synthetically derived THC will continue to be sold retail and wholesale outside the rigorous regulatory oversight currently required for legally produced cannabis products. Consumers deserve to know what they are buying, and often what they are not. Written on the label it’s not in the packaging when it comes to unregulated products.”

Youngkin recently took action on medical cannabis in April, and Website Legislation that no longer require medical cannabis patients to register with the Virginia Board of Pharmacy when they are certified by a medical provider.

NORML shared that the state is home to more than 47,000 patients with medical cannabis, with an estimated 8,000 pending approval. “These legislative improvements will bring significant relief to the thousands of Virginians awaiting access to the medical cannabis program.” Bideni said. “We hear from dozens of Virginians every week who struggle with the registration process and are frustrated with the 60-day wait to get their approval from the Board of Pharmacy.”

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