Mar 4, 2024 - News

Virginia Dems push Youngkin to approve legal weed sales bill

A farm of hemp plants with a sign that says, "This is not marijuana"

A farm growing hemp plants in Stanley, Virginia, in 2020. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Virginia's Democratic-controlled legislature last week passed a long-awaited bill to legalize marijuana sales.

Why it matters: Back in 2021 the commonwealth became the first Southern state in the nation to legalize weed possession but has lost out on tax revenue while lawmakers fought over the fine print and a gray market flourished.

The intrigue: Gov. Glenn Youngkin hasn't shown much interest in the idea. But now he's got a new incentive to sign the bill.

  • A key Democratic senator tells Axios that the governor needs to approve his caucus' priorities — a retail weed market being one of them — to get the Caps and Wizards arena deal done.

"I have been very clear," Scott Surovell, who represents Fairfax, tells Axios, "if the governor would like the arena, that cannabis has to be part of the discussion."

  • Youngkin approving the bill could persuade more Democrats to back the $1 billion public subsidy for an arena.

How it works: Under the bill lawmakers have sent to Youngkin, recreational sales would begin next year.

  • Weed products would be taxed up to 11.625%, the AP reports.
  • Businesses would be able to begin applying for licenses on Sept. 1.

Youngkin's spokesperson referred Axios to a comment the governor made in January, saying, "This is an area that I really don't have any interest in."

  • Sen. Louise Lucas, the powerful Democrat in Richmond who is a "hell no" on the arena, also didn't comment.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to add comment from Youngkin.

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