Virginia Set to Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis

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Adult-use cannabis could soon be legal in Virginia.

Both chambers of Virginia’s legislature passed separate bills on Friday that would legalize, regulate and tax cannabis for adults over the age of 21.

If a final bill is signed into law, Virginia would become the 16th state to legalize recreational cannabis and just the third — including Illinois and Vermont — to do so through the state legislature.

“Virginia appears poised to join 15 other states that have adopted sensible laws that legalize and regulate marijuana for adults,” Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) executive director Steve Hawkins said via a news release. “MPP is proud to have played an important role in all three states where the House and Senate have voted to legalize cannabis, in Vermont, Illinois, and now, Virginia.”

Lawmakers in the House of Delegates — which voted 55-42 in favor of HB 2312 — as well as the Senate — which voted 23-15 in favor of SB 1406 — support the legalization of cannabis, however the disagree on the way the commercial market should be structured.

Those differences must be worked out before Gov. Ralph Northam, who supports legalization, signs any legislation into law.

The key distinction between the two bills revolved around vertical integration. Under HB 2312, a person could only hold interest in one type of license.

Vertical integration would be permitted under SB 1406, however license holders would need to pay a $1 million fee and implement an equity and inclusion plan.

Both bills call for adult-use sales to begin on Jan. 1, 2024 as well as the establishment of a 21% tax on top of the state’s 6% sales tax. Localities could also impose an additional tax of up to 3%.

Those tax dollars would be earmarked for education, public health and substance abuse programs as well as a “Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund.”

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Virginia’s move to legalize adult-use cannabis comes just three months after voters in four states — Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota — approved marijuana legalization initiatives. Since the November vote, only Arizona has commenced adult-use sales. 

Currently, 15 states and Washington D.C. have legalized cannabis for adults over the age of 21. Medical marijuana is also legal in 36 states.

A recent Gallup poll found that nearly 70% of Americans believe cannabis should be legalized at the federal level.

According to New Frontier Data, 235 million Americans live in a state where some form of cannabis is legal. Meanwhile, one-third of Americans live in states that permit the sale of adult-use cannabis.

Several other states are looking to legalize adult-use cannabis, including New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, among others.

As more states come online, the cannabis industry is expected to be a significant job creator. According to the 2020 Marijuana Business Factbook, published by Marijuana Business Daily, the cannabis industry could boast as many as 575,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs by 2024. Over the next four years, the industry is expected to add nearly 250,000 FTE positions.


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