Almost weekly, states are coming around to pro-cannabis laws. Next up on the list of states updating cannabis legislation is Virginia. Newly empowered Republicans in the State of Virginia plan to outline the retail sales of recreational cannabis. Some believe that the VA GOP is open to hurrying up the timeline for retail cannabis sales, despite being delayed until 2024.
VA Republicans have made it clear that one factor that’s dubious about finding sponsorship among their members is social equity guidelines. Virginia Dems who campaigned for the legislation earlier this season called a penetrating force behind their legislation. Despite this, it failed to materialize before the end of the legislative session.
The recommendations under review are ordinarily designed to set aside a group of cannabis business permits for African-American Virginians. During prohibition, Black Virginians were three times more likely to be arrested for possession of cannabis. Conversely, their White counterparts rarely faced such injustices. Research indicates both groups used the drug at roughly the same rate. A bill that split up cannabis licenses explicitly by race would likely face obstacles on constitutional means. Democrats in Virginia considered models that unfolded them to Virginians with prior cannabis convictions, their family, graduates of a Virginia HBCU, or Historical Black College or University.
The bill also suggested an incubator program to support financial startups and reinvestment reserves that would provide a portion of tax income back to neighborhoods subject to (or with a history of) social injustices.
During the debate on the legislation last year, several Republicans said they would have been inclined to vote for legalization. Still, they could not support a bill that prioritized people with cannabis convictions on their records for business licenses.
VA Democrats have already begun debating whether to hurry the timeline for retail cannabis sales, fretting that the judgment to end criminal disciplines for possession of cannabis without creating a legal method of buying cannabis is enabling the illicit cannabis market of Virginia.
Legislators set a 2024 date for retail cannabis sales because it would provide a good timeline to stabilize the new Cannabis Control Authority and write laws that will govern the industry in Virginia.
An interim option—enabling the existing medicinal dispensaries to begin retail cannabis sales as a stop-gap model—was denied by legislators concerned it would undermine the intended social equity programs by giving the medicinal companies an unfair advantage.
It’s unlikely GOP members of Congress would share that interest given their general aversion to equity programs. And on the blue side, some legislators are holding out, hoping both can be incorporated.
At a gathering of the General Assembly’s Cannabis Oversight Commission last week, a representative of Jushi, a multi-state cannabis enterprise that holds the medicinal license to sell cannabis in Northern Virginia, informed lawmakers the cannabis industry could sell to medicinal and recreational customers. Talks have included recommendations that would require medicinal producers to serve as incubators for upcoming social-equity licensees in Virginia.
Virginia NORML, which has supported legalization for decades, also permits medicinal dispensaries to provide cannabis to recreational customers. The organization’s director, Jenn Michelle Pedini, stated most states that have legalized cannabis had taken a comparative approach.
VA Democrats, who still dominate the commission, are scaling the issue. Despite this, the subcommittee chair tasked with examining options, Delegate Don Scott (D-VA), made it clear that he’s unpromising to have much say in the judgment and began committing to the only Republican assigned, Delegate Will Morefield (R-VA), as the expected chair.
Delegate Morefield stated that while House Republicans have yet to install a policy on the matter, he is personally receptive to permitting the medical dispensaries to sell to recreational customers.