Feb 28, 2023 - News

Virginia fails to establish legal marijuana market

Virginia will have to wait for a legal weed market. Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images.

Virginia may be the first state in the South to legalize marijuana possession, but actually getting a hold of the drug hasn’t gotten any easier.

Why it matters: Virginia will not have a legal marijuana market this year. Legislators are unlikely to take up the issue again until their regular session next year.

Driving the news: The Virginia legislative session ended in a stalemate this past weekend after legislators failed to establish a legal retail market, Axios' Ned Oliver reports.

  • They also pushed to defund the state's new Cannabis Control Authority, which was established to regulate the marijuana market.

Catch up quick: Marijuana is legal to possess (up to one ounce in public), grow (no more than four plants), and gift (but not in the D.C. way). But it’s still a felony to sell the plant outside of the state's medical marijuana program, and there is no legal avenue for recreational retail sales.

  • Democratic lawmakers — who two years ago voted along party lines to legalize marijuana possession — planned to establish a legal retail market by 2024, but then lost control of the House of Delegates and the governor's office in 2021.

Meanwhile: During the session, lawmakers cracked down on hemp-based synthetic THC products that have proliferated in tobacco shops and gas stations — a top priority of Gov. Youngkin’s.

  • This means hemp-derived products will be subject to a more robust permitting process and a limit on how much THC can be in each product, per the Virginia Mercury.

What they're saying: Proponents of the new hemp rules say they're a step towards a safer consumer market, reports the Virginia Mercury, and Youngkin is likely to sign the measure.

The other side: "I think people who want to see progress on legalized sales for cannabis need to remember this election year which party has stood in the way," Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, tells Axios.

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