RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Two different proposals to start recreational marijuana sales in Virginia were voted down by a House of Delegates panel, signaling that the latest push for a retail market appears doomed.
A Republican-controlled House General Laws subcommittee rejected two bills, one from Del. Michael J. Webert (R-Fauquier) and one from Del. Keith Hodges (R-Middlesex), during its meeting Tuesday evening.
The legislation from Del. Hodges would set a path for licenses to be issued at the start of next year but would fast-track recreational sales by certain pharmaceutical processors to July. But a substitute was introduced proposing that the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority draft regulations on the retail market that lawmakers would have to approve.
Del. Webert’s bill proposes allowing the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority to begin issuing marijuana licenses in 2024 but prohibiting recreational sales until 2025. Webert said his bill would ensure tracking “from seed to sale,” set THC limits on products and impose a 12% tax rate on cannabis sales.
“We have to do something,” Greg Habeeb, a former Republican state delegate representing the Virginia Cannabis Association, told the subcommittee Tuesday, adding that outlawing marijuana is an unlikely option but that lawmakers need to address public safety concerns.
While Habeeb spoke in support of both proposals, his enthusiasm for Hodges’ bill was evident during Tuesday’s hearing. Habeeb told subcommittee members that Hodges’ legislation “might be the only way” to pass a bill setting a path for a regulatory framework.
The subcommittee overwhelmingly voted to lay Webert’s bill on the table, a move that allows it to be revived this year but that scenario is improbable. After testimony on Hodges’ bill, the panel voted to also lay the measure on the table.
People 21 and over can have small amounts of cannabis for recreational use in Virginia, but there’s no way for them to buy it legally. Virginia legalized possession of up to an ounce, but efforts to create a regulatory framework for recreational sales stalled in the General Assembly.
Under Virginia’s current law, adults can grow up to four marijuana plants in their homes, receive cannabis as a gift or buy it from a medical dispensary with a license.
The bill passed in 2021 included a reenactment clause requiring the General Assembly to approve the measure again and set a framework for retail sales.
A bill in the Virginia Senate to establish a retail market sponsored by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), the chief patron of the legalization bill that passed into law, advanced out of committee and is expected to pass out of the chamber as it did last year.
The House subcommittee’s votes Tuesday don’t officially end the effort to establish a regulatory framework for a cannabis retail market. But the votes suggest that the Republican-led House of Delegates appears unlikely to allow the proposals to move forward.