Former Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed an adult-use cannabis legalization bill into law nearly two years ago—in April 2021—but commercial adult-use sales won’t be launching any time soon after lawmakers rejected legislation this week to create a regulated market.
The Republican-controlled House of Delegates voted Feb. 14 to kill a bill, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, that would have allowed an adult-use market to launch in 2024, according to a local WRIC report.
Under the law signed by Northam in 2021, adults 21 and older can legally possess up to an ounce of cannabis and grow up to four plants at home, but there is no way to purchase cannabis for recreational use in the state.
The 2021 legislation set a 2024 target date to launch adult-use sales, but also included a reenactment clause that requires the Virginia Legislature to reauthorize certain provisions and establish a regulatory framework for a commercial market.
Legislative efforts to create that framework have repeatedly stalled after Republicans took control of the House of Delegates and Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office.
Ebbin proposed a similar bill last year that also died in the House, WRIC reported. The legislation would have allowed Virginia’s licensed medical cannabis dispensaries to begin adult-use sales Jan. 1, 2024. The bill would have also allowed regulators to issue adult-use retail licenses to businesses owned by those who reside in “historically disadvantaged communities,” according to the news outlet.
The proposal ultimately died Tuesday when a House of Delegates subcommittee voted 5-3 along party lines to kill it, WRIC reported.
“We are kind of dragging our feet on establishing a retail market that could provide hundreds of millions in tax revenue,” Ebbin told the subcommittee, according to the news outlet.
This week’s vote likely kicks the issue to Virginia’s 2024 legislative session, WRIC reported.
In the meantime, Virginia’s medical cannabis law outlines five Health Service Areas (HSAs) that each house one of the state’s five medical cannabis licensees, which can open up to four dispensaries within their geographic HSA.
Columbia Care opened its eighth storefront in the state this week; the company operates four dispensaries under its flagship Cannabist brand and four under the gLeaf brand it acquired from Green Leaf.