Mar 12, 2024 - News

What's in Virginia's retail weed marketplace bill

Illustration of a "for sale" sign post made out of two marijuana joints.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Virginia's chance of launching a legal retail marijuana marketplace is looking slim this year. But the bill headed to Gov. Glenn Youngkin's desk looking to do that is still a big deal.

Why it matters: Even if it doesn't get Youngkin's signature, the legislation could set the stage for future efforts at creating a marketplace, Virginia Mercury's Graham Moomaw reports.

  • Lawmakers have failed to agree on terms that would kickstart legal weed sales in Virginia since it became in 2021 the first state in the South to legalize possession.

State of play: Behind closed doors, Youngkin and Democrats had discussed a compromise to pass the marketplace bill as part of a broader package that included the governor's plan to build a sports arena in Northern Virginia, sources told Moomaw.

  • But it likely fell to the wayside last week when Democrats unveiled a budget without funding for the arena.

What they're saying: "As those great philosophers Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin would say, 'It's up in smoke,'" Del. Paul Krizek, a sponsor of the legislation, told the Mercury.

Zoom in: Still, since this bill could be the framework for the future market, it's worth taking a look.

  • The proposal sets May 1, 2025, as the start date for recreational marijuana sales, with dispensary applications beginning in September.
  • The Cannabis Control Authority, which oversees the state's medicinal marijuana program, would oversee the retail market, too.
  • Localities could hold a referendum to ban retail marijuana stores.
  • The bill also increases the amount of marijuana people 21 and over can possess from 1 ounce to 2.5 ounces.

By the numbers:

  • 350 — number of retail stores that would be allowed in the state.
  • 2,500 square feet — the cap for retail floor space allowed.
  • 100 — the number of processing (turning plant into product) facilities allowed.
  • 125 — the number of cultivation (growing) facilities allowed.
  • 11.625% — the overall tax rate — with 8% going to the state, 2.5% a local option tax, and 1.125% to K-12 education, per AP.

Fun fact: Richmond's meals tax, which was the subject of multiple bills and discussions at the state level during the session, came up again in retail marijuana proposals.

  • Sen. David R. Suetterlein, who represents Roanoke, noted that the bill's tax rate for marijuana is less than Richmond's 13.5% tax for prepared food. "A working family shouldn't have a higher tax rate on their rotisserie chicken than cannabis," he said, according to the Washington Post.

What's next: We wait and see.

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