Legislation to legalize the licensed distribution of marijuana to everyone 21 and older has been approved through a House of Delegates committee and given initial approval by the full chamber.
House Bill 698 was given approval Tuesday by the House General Laws Committee in a vote of 11 to 8. Today, the measure was given initial approval by the full House of Delegates in a voice vote. The measure will now need to receive one final vote, expected to come next week, before it can be sent to the state’s Senate.
Virginia is one of 24 states that has legalized recreational marijuana, but it’s the only one to not allow marijuana to be sold through marijuana retail outlets. House Bill 698 would change that by allowing some existing medical marijuana dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana, while also issuing 60 licenses for marijuana microbusinesses that would open in early 2025.
“We only get one shot at growing a retail market in an orderly fashion, and we have to get it right”, says Delegate Paul Krizek, the bill’s prime sponsor. “For that reason this bill establishes a realistic starting date and it increases the number of licensees incrementally.”
Late last month the Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted 7 to 5 to pass a competing bill that would also legalize recreational marijuana sales, but would do so by establishing a system of licensed and regulated marijuana retail outlets, supplied by licensed growers and processors. Sales would also begin sometime in 2025, but medical marijuana dispensaries would not get a jumpstart on the market as is the case under House Bill 698. Cities would be allowed to ban marijuana stores, but only through voter approval.
HB 698 allows cities to opt out without first needing to pass a voter-approved ordinance.
For the full text of HB 698, click here.