Virginia Passes Recreational Cannabis Bill
The political climate of cannabis is shifting heavily only three months into the year. States such as New Mexico, New Jersey, and Montana have all made headlines this year. Cannabis is also being re-evaluated on a federal level under the MORE Act. We can now add Virginia to that list. Last week, the Virginia House of Representatives passed a bill supporting the legalization of cannabis. Here’s what the passing of House Bill 2312 means for Virginians and the cannabis industry.
Current status of cannabis in Virginia
Medical cannabis is legal in Virginia. However, the medicinal cannabis program is quite restrictive. Currently, this medical cannabis program offers CBD and THC oils. However, there are no flower or smokeable products allowed under the program. It was until late last year that the medical cannabis program of Virginia ‘expanded’ its range of available products. Virginians have also clamored for an expansion of the list of qualifying conditions to obtain medical cannabis. Access to recreational cannabis in Virginia under HB 2312 may make the aforementioned point moot.
Before the passing of HB 2312, recreational use of cannabis was illegal. Moreover, the penalties and fines associated with the possession of cannabis are not friendly either. The punishments for cannabis possession in Virginia are still behind the times, despite recent legislation. Personal possession of more than half an ounce but less than five pounds of cannabis can result in up to 10 years in jail and a $2,500 fine. Possession of more than the aforementioned amount could lead to being charged with a felony and an even harsher punishment. House Bill 2312 also aims to address decriminalizing cannabis altogether.
House Bill 2312
The bill that could eventually allow cannabis for adult-use in Virginia was passed last week. In the Virginia House of Delegates, the bill passed narrowly with a vote of 55 to 52. Introduced by Delegate Charniele LeRhonda Herring, House Bill 2312 aims to do the following:
- Eliminates criminal penalties for simple possession of cannabis
- Alter several other criminal penalties related to cannabis
- Implements an ‘automatic expungement process’ for those convicted of certain cannabis-related offenses
- Establishes the ‘Virginia Cannabis Control Authority’ and establishes a regulatory structure for the cultivation, production, commercial, and retail sale of retail cannabis and retail cannabis products.
The bill found support from a multitude of members of the Virginia House of Delegates. Moreover, HB 2312 contains provisions designed to address social issues associated with cannabis. For example, under HB 2312, Virginia would provide support and resources to people and communities that have been ‘historically and disproportionately affected by drug enforcement.’ Expect everything for the recreational sales of cannabis in Virginia to be in effect by January of 2024.
Additional political happenings involving cannabis
Virginia is not the only state making an impact on cannabis. Earlier this year, the United States House of Representatives passed the MORE Act. This bill has been trying to get enough momentum in Congress to be heard on the house floor for a few years. Also known as H.R. 3884, the MORE Act was originally drafted and sponsored by Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York. The MORE Act would ultimately find bipartisan support of a whopping 120 cosponsors. Summarily, the MORE Act can decriminalize cannabis on a federal level once and for all. Additionally, the act would finally remove cannabis from the list of scheduled I controlled substances. This would allow cannabis to be studied on a federal level. The MORE act will also force a tax on cannabis at a 5% rate federally. The tax rate is likely to increase to 9% if the bill can make it through the Senate.