Recreational marijuana developments are currently taking center stage on Virginia’s political front, with the adult-use market stalled indefinitely. Thanks to that, Virginia citizens now have no choice but to turn to alternatives from either the traditional market, hemp-derived sources, or growing their own cannabis at home.
Should’a, Would’a, Could’a
This stalling of the adult-use market could have been prevented if the then-Democratic-controlled General Assembly had been in power, the legalization bill sent to former Governor Ralph Northam had taken center stage, and a more robust framework had passed.
It was during this time that adult-use marijuana was initially passed, and when Democrats should have created said regulatory framework. However, the confidence that they would be in power beyond elections and be able to address it then, would see them unable to see the process through to fruition.
While the law passed in early 2021 allowed Virginians to not only possess but cultivate up to four plants and saw the possible start of recreational sales in early 2024, the law still required the reenactment of legislation provisions at the time. In the interim, Republicans regained control of the governor’s office and House of Delegates, and these likelihood of success for these measures dimmed significantly.
So, What Now?
Republicans are now in power and seem reluctant to move forward with Virginia’s adult-use market launch, mainly due to them being against the adult-use market from the start.
What the legislation needed was to set up an adult-use market, but this failed during the General Assembly’s legislative session. Furthermore, a pair of Republican-sponsored cannabis regulatory bills were stopped, and with it, the chance to finally set up a licensing scheme in time for sales to commence.
Currently, Republicans are also pushing for a proposal to slash nearly 70% of the budget of the Cannabis Control Authority. Simultaneously, Virginia’s part-time General Assembly meets in regular sessions for only 30 days, and there is no time left in the state’s legislative calendar to introduce an alternative.
For now, Virginia sees a rise in illicit-market alternatives, illegal storefronts, and illegal pop-ups. Untested products containing hemp-derived delta-8 THC are also being obtained, with some concerned about the health impacts.
Little Hope Is Held For The Future
There’s little hope for a 2024 sales launch even if the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn its meetings. With no hope for this year, 2023, with adult-use cannabis regulation dead for the entire year, some of Virginia’s existing medical cannabis licenses will be held by the major multistate operators and new market entrants. All entrants will be stuck in a holding pattern.
Other relevant parties and individuals believe that adult-use sales will not commence on January 1, 2024, as hoped. Especially with no advancements in adult-use cannabis legislation in Virginia planned for the rest of the year. It is also alleged that this is not where the current governor wants the General Assembly to spend its time.
Despite little hope, common belief states that Virginia’s current problems will continue until the market is regulated and taxed.
If You Can’t Succeed, Push For Something Else
Given the current situation, some relevant parties are pushing for a comprehensive bill regulating hemp-derived cannabinoids. Other forms of regulations on the other side of this political pool are taking shape. However, they’re not believed to address the burgeoning illicit market problem either.
On the other side of the political pool, more bills are being pushed to deal with hemp and delta-8 and the regulations thereof, as well as the issue of consumer safety around those products. The focus of these bills is to counteract the mislabeling, misselling, and mistargeting of products toward children.
In this giant pool of legislative pushing that has clouded Virginia and has come from the previous Democratic-controlled General Assembly’s failure to legalize cannabis without passing ironclad regulations, Republicans are now pushing for solutions to their makings. Overall, the situation has become less about the adult-use marketing and sales launch and more about fixing rising problems.
Despite pushing in all directions, the Virginia adult-use market launch remains scrapped with certainly an uncertain future, and locals will continue to turn to alternatives or grow their own supplies at home. Nevertheless, the stalling marks a big loss for Virginia citizens.
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