Virginia GOP Governor Still Doesn’t Have ‘Any Interest’ In Signing Marijuana Sales Bill As Democratic Legislature Approves Plan

A day after the Virginia legislature sent a retail marijuana sales bill to Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), a spokesperson in his office told Marijuana Moment that there’s no new update on the governor’s stance on the issue, instead citing earlier comments in which he said he doesn’t “have any interest in” signing cannabis commerce legislation.

While some supporters hope he’ll allow the measure to become law, others have predicted Youngkin will veto the bill.

Reached by email on Thursday, Christian Martinez, the governor’s press secretary, was tight-lipped.

“I would refer you back to the Governor’s comments during the gaggle after the State of the Commonwealth,” Martinez told Marijuana Moment in an email, “where he said he doesn’t have a lot of interest in pressing forward with marijuana legalization.”

In those comments, on January 10—before any of the recent major changes to the now-passed legal sales proposal—Youngkin said:

“I’ve said before, this is an area that I really don’t have any interest in. What I want us to work on are areas where we can find a meeting of the mind and press forward to the betterment of Virginia and there are so many of them. This is a chance for us to spend our time in places where we can transform our behavioral health system and make sure that we have the best education in America for our children, press forward with childcare options for Virginians, and overhaul our foster care program. There’s so many things that we can work on that I think we can get to the finish line and as I’ve said I just don’t have a lot of interest in pressing forward with marijuana legislation.”

Asked for clarification on what that statement actually means in terms of possible action on the bill that’s now before him, Martinez didn’t directly respond. He replied that the office would provide an update “once we have one.”

“For now,” he added, “the governor will review any legislation that comes to his desk.”

Use, possession and limited cultivation of cannabis by adults is already legal in Virginia, the result of a Democrat-led proposal approved by lawmakers in 2021. But Republicans, after winning control of the House and governor’s office later that year, subsequently blocked the required reenactment of a regulatory framework for retail sales. Since then, illicit stores have sprung up to meet consumer demand.

For months, lawmakers working to pass a legal sales bill have said they’ve received little or no response from Youngkin’s office despite efforts to reach out and see what the governor might be open to.

In October, Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), who was then working to draft a legal sales bill, told Marijuana Moment that the Youngkin “has been a challenge to deal with because he hasn’t been forthcoming with his views on what he’s willing to support.”

“I’m not sure what the governor will sign, since he’s been kind of cagey and not really supportive in his public statements,” Ebbin said at the time.

Asked directly whether he thought Youngkin would veto a sales bill, Ebbin replied: “Yeah, I would say there would be a substantial chance of that.”

A year ago, Youngkin seemed to leave the door open to the possibility of licensing and regulating the commercial cannabis market, saying he was anticipating lawmakers would lead the way.

“I have said over and over again, I think that creating a market for cannabis is very complicated,” he said in February 2023. “There’s other states that have struggled, and they’ve got to go do the work. And I’ve looked at them for sending me bills.”

When he was first elected, Youngkin also said he was “not against” allowing commercial sales categorically.

House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D) warned in January that the governor should act with caution as he weighs the cannabis bill, opining that it’s “an important public safety matter that we have a regulated market.”

“The governor should be careful,” Herring said at the time. “A bill gets to his desk, and he vetoes it, I’m not sure what that communication is going to be to the public about their safety.”

Supporters of the sales bill, including sponsors in both the House and Senate, have repeatedly said the bill would not create a cannabis market in Virginia but instead regulate the state’s existing illicit market, which some estimates have valued at nearly $3 billion.

The legislation sent to Youngkin this week would begin licensing marijuana businesses later this year, with sales slated to kick off on May 1, 2025. Sales to adults 21 and older of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana flower would be allowed, with purchases taxed at 11.625 percent. Local governments could ban marijuana establishments, but only with the support of local voters.

Here’s what the marijuana sales legislation sent to Gov. Youngkin would do:

Retail sales could begin as of May 1, 2025.
Adults would be able to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana in a single transaction, or up to an equivalent amount of other cannabis products as determined by regulators.
A state tax of 11.625 percent would apply to the retail sale of any cannabis product. Of that, 8 percent would go to the state, local governments would get 2.5 percent and 1.125 percent would fund schools.
The Virginia Cannabis Control Authority would oversee licensing and regulation of the new industry. Its board of directors would have the authority to control possession, sale, transportation, distribution, delivery and testing of marijuana.
Local governments could ban marijuana establishments, but only if voters first approve an opt-out referendum.
Locations of retail outlets could not be within 1,000 feet of another marijuana retailer.
Cultivators would be regulated by space devoted to marijuana cultivation, known as canopy size. Both indoor and outdoor marijuana cultivation would be allowed, though only growers in lower tiers—with lower limits on canopy size—could grow plants outside. Larger growers would need to cultivate plants indoors. Secure greenhouses would qualify as indoor cultivation.
Only direct, face-to-face transactions would be permitted. The legislation would prohibit the use of other avenues, such as vending machines, drive-through windows, internet-based sales platforms and delivery services.
Existing medical marijuana providers that enter the adult-use market could apply to open up to five additional retail establishments, which would need to be colocated at their existing licensed facilities.
Serving sizes would be capped at 10 milligrams THC, with no more than 100 mg THC per package.
No person could be granted or hold an interest in more than five total licenses, not including transporter licenses.
People with convictions for felonies or crimes involving moral turpitude within the past seven years would be ineligible to apply for licensing, as would employees of police or sheriff’s departments if they’re responsible for enforcement of the penal, traffic or motor vehicle laws of the commonwealth.
An equity-focused microbusiness program would grant licenses to entities at least two-thirds owned and directly controlled by eligible applicants, which include people with past cannabis misdemeanors, family members of people with past convictions, military veterans, individuals who’ve lived at least three of the past five years in a “historically economically disadvantaged community,” people who’ve attended schools in those areas and individuals who received a federal Pell grant or attended a college or university where at least 30 percent of students are eligible for Pell grants.
“Historically economically disadvantaged community” is an area that has recorded marijuana possession offenses at or above 150 percent of the statewide average between 2009 and 2019.
Tax revenue from the program would first cover the costs of administering and enforcing the state’s cannabis system. After that, 60 percent of remaining funds would go toward supporting the state’s Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund, 25 percent would fund substance use disorder treatment and prevention, 10 percent would go to pre-K programs for at-risk children and 5 percent would fund a public health and awareness campaign.
Adults could also share up to 2.5 ounces with other adults without financial remuneration, though gray-market “gifting” of marijuana as part of another transaction would be punishable as a Class 2 misdemeanor and a Class 1 misdemeanor on second and subsequent offenses.
A number of other new criminal penalties would be created. Knowingly selling or giving marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia to someone under 21, for example, would be a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum $2,500 fine, as would knowingly selling cannabis to someone reasonably believed to be intoxicated. It would also be a Class 1 misdemeanor to advertise the sale of marijuana paraphernalia to people under 21.
Knowingly obtaining marijuana on behalf of someone under 21 would be a Class 1 misdemeanor.
People under 21 who possess or use marijuana, or attempt to obtain it, would be subject to a civil penalty of no more than $25 and ordered to enter a substance use disorder treatment and/or education program.
Illegal cultivation or manufacture of marijuana, not including legal homegrow, would be a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to five years imprisonment and a $2,500 fine.
People could process homegrown marijuana into products such as edibles, but butane extraction or the use of other volatile solvents would be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.—

A sales bill did advance through the Democratic-controlled Senate last session, but it stalled in committee in the House, which at the time had a GOP majority.

Meanwhile, the state legislature earlier this week passed a bill that would protect public sector workers, such as government officials and teachers, from being fired for medical marijuana use, sending the measure to the governor’s desk.

Lawmakers this week also sent Youngkin a bill that would prevent the state from using marijuana alone as evidence of child abuse or neglect. The change is meant to protect parents and guardians from discrimination. On its path to the governor’s desk, that legislation won unanimous or near-unanimous approval in votes on the Senate floor.

Supporters are optimistic that the governor will sign that bill, noting that backers reached out to him prior to the start of the legislative session and incorporated his office’s feedback into the measure.

Eight In Ten Americans Have A Marijuana Dispensary In Their County, And Shops ‘Cluster’ Near Borders With Illegal States, Pew Analysis Shows

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

 Read More Feedzy 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *