Virginia Democrats Take Control of State Legislature Making Legal Marijuana Sales a Possibility

Although Virginia legalized recreational marijuana in 2021, they are the only legal marijuana state to prohibit marijuana retail outlets. Tonight’s election could change that.

Earlier this year legislation to legalize marijuana sales – Senate Bill 1133 – was approved by the state’s full Senate by a vote of 24 to 16. However, the measure stalled in the House of Delegates, which is controlled by Republicans in a 48 to 46 split. Several Democrats have campaigned this election with a platform that includes the idea that if they take over the House, they will legalize marijuana sales.

In tonight’s election Democrats appear to have achieved the first part of that two-pronged plan, winning enough seats to take control of the House while retaining control of the Senate.

Democrats were able to keep their advantage in the Senate that they had coming into the night, while gaining enough seats in the House to become the new majority party.

It’s unclear if the new Democrat-controlled House, seated in January, will consider Senate Bill 1133 in the coming session or if they will formulate a new bill to send to the Senate.

According to its official summary, Senate Bill 1133:

Establishes a framework for the creation of a retail marijuana market in the Commonwealth, which would be administered by the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority. The bill allows the Authority to begin issuing marijuana licenses on July 1, 2024, and allows, beginning July 1, 2023, certain pharmaceutical processors, pending establishment of the retail market, to cultivate, manufacture, and sell cannabis products to persons 21 years of age or older. The bill transitions from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to the Authority the authority to regulate the testing, labeling, packaging, and advertising of regulated hemp products, as defined in the bill. The bill creates a process by which persons convicted of certain felony marijuana-related offenses committed prior to July 1, 2022, who remain incarcerated or on community supervision on July 1, 2023, may receive an automatic hearing to consider modification of such person’s sentence.

The measure would create a “transitional sales” period for legal marijuana sales, allowing pharmaceutical processors and a handful of franchisees of those processors to begin retail sales of cannabis starting January 1, 2024. Other applicants could then apply for a license on July 1st of the same year.

Under the proposed law marijuana would have an excise tax of 21%, with localities given the option of implementing an additional tax of up to 3%.

If legal marijuana sales is approved by the Virginia Legislature in the coming session, it will need to get through Governor Glenn Youngkin (R), who would have the option of vetoing the measure. If he was to veto it, the legislature could override the veto but it would take a 2/3rds majority,

Polling released earlier this year found that 60% of Virginia voters support legalizing retail marijuana outlets where anyone 21 and older can purchase marijuana and marijuana products.

[Editor’s note: At the time of publication votes are still being counted, but based on a detailed examination of election data we are entirely confident in our reporting].
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