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Virginia Lawmakers Approve Adult-use Retail Sales Bills

HB698 passes the Senate with bipartisan support

Members of the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate gave final approval today to legislation that would legalize and regulate the retail sale of cannabis to adults 21 and older. HB698 and SB448 passed with one Republican voting in favor of final passage in each chamber.

The measures would begin adult-use cannabis retail sales on May 1, 2025 with a tax rate of 11.625% in lieu of any state or local retail sales tax.

NORML Development Director JM Pedini testified in support of both bills. Pedini’s suggested amendments to remove criminal penalties for those who make cannabis products intended for personal use (like tinctures and baked goods) and for possessing lawful amounts in public remained in the final compromise version of the bills.

Both marijuana retail sales bills now head to Republican Gov. Youngkin’s desk.

This is another long-awaited and historic victory for cannabis freedom in Virginia. However, what remains to be seen is if Governor Youngkin agrees with the majority of Virginians that it’s time to take control of the marijuana market out of the hands of illicit operators and instead place it behind an age-verified counter at licensed dispensaries where it will be sold only to adults 21 and older,” said NORML’s Pedini, who also serves as Virginia NORML Executive Director.

Earlier this year, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin told reporters “I just don’t have a lot of interest in pressing forward with marijuana legislation.”

Under state law, adults 21 and older may legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana in public and cultivate up to four plants per household for personal use. However, retail sales in Virginia are currently only permitted for qualified medical patients.

Virginia’s legalization law, enacted in 2021 at a time when Democrats controlled the House, Senate, and Governorship, called for retail cannabis sales to begin no later than January 1, 2024. When Republicans gained control of the House and Governorship in 2022, no legislation establishing rules and regulations for state-licensed retailers succeeded and sales were not permitted to begin. Democrats now control both the House and the Senate, clearing a path for cannabis retail sales legislation to advance to the governor’s desk.

“Without a legal marketplace, Virginia’s illicit market has ballooned from $1.8 billion in 2020 to $2.4 billion in 2023,” added Pedini. “Consumers don’t know whether they’re getting a safe product or one contaminated with potentially dangerous adulterants. Unregulated cannabis isn’t lab tested for purity and it isn’t sold in packaging that is both childproof and not appealing to children,” they said. “Ultimately, Governor Youngkin will have to decide if he’s more interested in allowing unlicensed, unregulated, illicit operators to continue controlling cannabis in the Commonwealth or if he’s finally ready to apply the same commonsense provisions used to regulate the legal sale medical cannabis in Virginia to adult-use retail.”

Lawmakers also gave final approval to additional legislation expanding employment protections for medical cannabis patients to include public employees, protecting parental rights, and improve the state’s medical cannabis program. Republican-introduced bills attempting to establish unscientific per se THC blood limits for motorists were never docketed for a hearing and are subsequently dead for this legislative matter session.

Additional information is available from Virginia NORML.

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