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Some in newly empowered Va. GOP open to speeding retail sales of marijuana

Workers at gLeaf Medical tend to plants in a grow room at the Richmond medical marijuana...
Workers at gLeaf Medical tend to plants in a grow room at the Richmond medical marijuana dispensary.(Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)
Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 11:58 AM EST
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Newly empowered Republicans in Virginia say plans to allow retail sales of recreational marijuana won’t necessarily be doomed under their control of the House of Delegates and Executive Mansion.

And some say they’re open to speeding up the timeline for allowing retail sales, which is currently delayed until 2024.

“You almost kind of have to,” said Del. Glenn Davis, R-Virginia Beach, calling the current state of the law, in which possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana is legal but buying and selling the products is not, has created a quagmire that the party can’t ignore. “I guess we’re kind of half pregnant.”

Davis’ comments echoed House Leader Todd Gilbert’s statements on the subject last week when he told reporters that GOP members in the House would have no choice but to work with Democrats in the Senate to address the half-finished legislation, which he likened to a “live grenade rolling around.”

“We need to fix it or all we have is a black market,” he said.

Republicans have made it clear, though, that one thing that’s unlikely to find favor among their members are social equity provisions, which Democrats who championed the legislation earlier this year called a driving force behind their bill but failed to finalize before the end of the legislative session.

The proposals under discussion generally aimed to set aside a class of marijuana business licenses for Black Virginians, who during prohibition were three times more likely to face arrest for simple possession than their White counterparts despite studies showing both groups used the drug at roughly the same rate. Because a law that divvied up licenses explicitly by race would likely face a challenge on constitutional grounds, Democrats were considering criteria that opened them to people with past marijuana convictions, their family members, or graduates of a Virginia historically Black college or university.

The legislation also proposed an incubator program to help finance startups and a reinvestment fund that would send a portion of tax revenues back to neighborhoods subject to disproportionate enforcement.

During debate on the legislation last year, several Republicans said they would have been inclined to vote for legalization, but could not support a bill that prioritized people with marijuana convictions on their records for business licenses.

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.(Virginia Mercury)

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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