Virginia Senate subcommittee advances bill to allow retail cannabis stores

The idea is to make sure big, established medical marijuana companies don’t control the whole market.

Virginia’s plans to allow licensed stores to sell recreational marijuana inched forward this week after a key senate subcommittee approved a bill to let sales begin next year.

The bill advanced by the cannabis subcommittee would let up to 400 stores begin sales on Jan. 1, 2025, according to WRIC Fox.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Aaron Rouse, a Democrat from Virginia Beach, was selected over an alternative proposal that suggested a staggered approach to the introduction of retail sales.

Rouse’s bill is straightforward and lets stores start selling sooner. The other plan would have let medical marijuana processors start selling for recreational purposes first in July and then help smaller and minority-owned businesses join in later in January, with the medical operators essentially acting as early incubators for these businesses.

“There is no guarantee that they would be operational in six months, or ever – and there is also no penalty for the medical operators if they never get them operational,” said Chelsea Higgs Wise of Marijuana Justice.

Supporters of Sen. Rouse’s bill said it’s fairer and gives smaller businesses and new companies a better chance to get into the market.

“My bill is certainly one to provide a framework for Virginians, and small business owners, and those who want to start a business in the cannabis industry – without being drowned out by the big guys,” Rouse said.

Despite the legislation being presented as offering more immediate opportunities for small businesses, various market dynamics could sink even the grittiest bootstrapped operators.

In addition to the retail timeline, the bill includes considerations for equitable market access, factoring in economic background and veteran status among applicants. The bill suggests a 12% tax on marijuana sales, split between the state and local areas.

“The goal here is to generate as much revenue as possible, without making the taxes so oppressive that the black market continues to thrive,” Greg Habeeb of the Virginia Cannabis Association told the outlet.

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