Cannabis dispensaries in Virginia could open as soon as 2024

Published Feb 16, 2021 01:00 p.m. ET
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Virginia decriminalized cannabis in 2020. Now, a civil penalty is given, and simple possession of Virginia marijuana (up to one ounce) is classed as decriminalized. Support for the legalization of adult-use cannabis in Virginia is gaining traction. In February 2021, we saw another significant step taken by the Democratic-controlled Virginia House and Senate in the passing of the two bills approving adult use of marijuana.

Virginia marijuana laws are changing, and with legalization comes automatic expungement of misdemeanour cannabis-related offences. These two bills will also allow petitions for expungement of cannabis-related felonies that meet specific circumstances.

What are the differences that the two bills provide?

The scope of local government involvement and the House and Senate differ in the role and scope each take on Virginia marijuana laws. Localities that want to ban marijuana stores in their region can achieve this by voter referenda. Some differences that have arisen from the individual bills will still need to be resolved in a conference committee.

Time frame

January 1, 2024 is, according both bills, the earliest date to initiate the retail sale of marijuana in Virginia. The regulatory framework needed for Virginia marijuana laws to change will, until then, continue to grow in complexity and size at both local and state levels.

The licensing and regulatory framework found in Senate Bill 406 and House Bill 2312 include:

  • A marijuana business equity and diversity support team will be created.

  • A five-member board of directors will govern the cannabis control authority. The purpose of the control authority will be for the regulation of the adult cannabis market.

  • Point of sale will see a 12% state tax equity and applicants will be given licensing priority.

  • Seed to sale tracking, labelling, including state-required risk information and warning labels, will be included in the framework.

  • Up to 3 percent tax can be levied by localities.

  • Substance abuse treatment, pre-K education, and at-risk children will be the recipients of tax revenues, which will now be earmarked for those purposes, among other things.

Critical penalties and rules within both bills:

  • Any adult aged 21 and older can possess one ounce of cannabis. An equivalent amount of cannabis product is also acceptable and legal.

  • At a primary residence, two mature plants can be cultivated with the addition of two immature cannabis plants.

  • Over an ounce in one's possession can lead to a civil fine of 25 dollars.

  • Five pounds or more of weed in your possession could result in ten-year confinement in prison.

  • If caught in possession of cannabis on school grounds, an individual could see a six-month jail sentence.

  • If you bring cannabis into Virginia, you will face the punishment of up to one year in jail.

According to a bill's sponsor, House majority Leader Charniele Herring, the legislation will provide the long-overdue justice needed for many of the marginalized communities throughout Virginia.

The polling results of registered voters in Virginia have demonstrated how residents feel about Virginia marijuana laws, as seventy percent voted in favour of legal cannabis in the state. Virginia State legislators are guilty of being slow in translating support into needed legislative actions.

Final thoughts

Governor Ralph Northam has already given his support for Virginia's marijuana reform. When passed, the state will be the sixteenth to legalize recreational marijuana and the third state to do so solely through the process of legislation.

14 States that have yet to legalize cannabis

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