Republican members of the House General Laws Subcommittee halted any further advancement today of Senate-backed legislation, SB 391, that sought to initiate retail marijuana sales to adults beginning this September. Committee members rejected the measure on a 5 to 3 party line vote. Republicans took control of the House of Delegates following the results of the November 2021 mid-term election.
JM Pedini, NORML’s Development Director and the Executive Director of Virginia NORML, said that today’s vote represented “a stunning failure of leadership on cannabis policy.” Pedini noted that Senate members failed to provide the House with a streamlined version of legislation to address the retail sales issue, while members of the GOP-led House failed to advance all but one cannabis-related bill out of their own chamber.
“This is 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,” Pedini said.
In 2021, lawmakers in both chambers approved adult-use legalization without a single Republican vote. The legislation was signed into law in April by outgoing Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam. That legislation contained a reenactment clause requiring legislators to hold an additional vote on matters pertaining to the regulation of the adult-use market in the 2022 General Assembly. Lawmakers have now missed the window to do so.
Personal possession and cultivation of small quantities of cannabis by adults 21 and older is already permitted in Virginia under the 2021 law. However, some other marijuana-related crimes that were temporarily repealed under the law will no longer be depenalized due to the General Assembly’s failure to take any further action.
“House Republicans missed an opportunity to crack down on the illicit market and provide a regulated, equitable adult-use market,” said Democratic Sen. Adam Ebbin, who sponsored SB 391.
The 2021 law calls for retail cannabis sales to begin no later than January 1, 2024.
Additional information is available from Virginia NORML.