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by Brandon Jarvis

Republicans in the House of Delegates killed legislation Monday that would have established a retail market for buying marijuana in Virginia. Currently, marijuana is legal to possess but you cannot purchase it. You have to either grow it yourself or receive it as a “gift” from another person.

Senate Democrats passed legislation last week establishing the framework for retail sales but Republicans were not happy with the bill when it reached a subcommittee in the House on Monday.

“The Democrats left us such a mess that we can’t get it done right before session is over,” said Garren Shipley, the communications director for Speaker of the House Todd Gilbert.

In 2021, with the prospects of elections a few months later, Democrats passed last-second legislation to legalize possession of up to one ounce. Ralph Northam was governor at the time and he achieved this in the form of a last-second amendment moving the date of legal simple possession to July 2021, instead of 2024, which was the original legislation prescribed.

Republicans believe this move helped contribute to the illicit market, but one year later they still have not figured out how to fix it themselves now that they have the majority in the House of Delegates.

“We saw what happens when legislation is rushed — we get the tangle of legislative failure that is the existing law,” Shipley said.

Republicans said Monday morning that they will work to complete the establishment of a retail market during the legislative session next year — meaning the earliest possible start date will be July of 2023.

Marijuana has not been at the forefront of the Republican platform in any form since they were successful in November’s elections. They focused on changing school curriculums, removing mask mandates, and providing tax cuts to Virginians, for the most part.

Governor Glenn Youngkin said on the campaign trail that he would not move to repeal the legalization of simple possession, but he often expressed disapproval over the Democratic plans for establishing retail sales.

“I think there is a lot of work to be done. I’m not against it, but there’s a lot of work to be done,” Youngkin said during an interview with Virginia Business last year. “There are some nonstarters, including the forced unionization that’s in the current bill. There have been concerns expressed by law enforcement in how the gap in the laws can actually be enforced.”

Democrats say they did all of the work on this legislation and the House Republicans are allowing the illicit market to continue. “The General Assembly did years of heavy lifting on this significant legislative effort – all Governor Youngkin and House Republicans had to do was take a simple vote to finalize Virginia’s legal market,” said House Democratic Leader Eileen Filler-Corn. “Republican lack of action today allows the illicit market to thrive and decades of disproportionate enforcement of marijuana laws to go unaddressed.”

Virginia Scope is an independent news publication that is funded largely by donations and subscribers. As local newsrooms are losing writers each day, we are trying to fill the void to ensure that the public is informed and that leaders are held accountable for their actions. Please consider becoming a paid subscriber to our newsletter or making a donation through Paypal below so we can continue to work in Virginia. 

By vascope

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