Can Virginia lawmakers find a way to fix the state’s ‘weird’ weed laws?

Bills on retail sales, hemp regulation to be taken up in 2023 session
With marijuana still illegal to sell for recreational use, hemp-derived products are filling...
With marijuana still illegal to sell for recreational use, hemp-derived products are filling the void and catching the attention of state policymakers.(Virginia Mercury)
Published: Jan. 16, 2023 at 3:41 PM EST
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At a sleek new store called Cannabist in Richmond’s Carytown shopping district, anyone with an easy-to-obtain medical cannabis card can buy a full range of marijuana products strongly regulated by the Virginia Board of Pharmacy.

Right across the street, a vape shop has a sign advertising largely unregulated delta-8, which also gets users high but doesn’t run afoul of current marijuana laws because it’s derived from hemp plants.

A grocery store a short distance away offers a variety of milder CBD products that don’t have intoxicating effects but also come from hemp.

For those who prefer a more DIY approach, it’s now legal to grow up to four marijuana plants at home. You just have to find seeds, which remain illegal to sell.

And even though it’s now legal to possess small amounts of pot, there’s still no way to legally buy real-deal marijuana for purely recreational use.

Even in the eyes of many legislators who write the state’s laws, Virginia’s stance on cannabis is more than a little bit confusing and illogical.

“I think by and large most of the people would like to get it straight. We haven’t done it,” said Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax. “It’s weird that it’s legal to possess it but you can’t sell it.”

Clearing up Virginia’s stance on marijuana is expected to be a major topic of discussion in the General Assembly session that began last week, but it’s unclear if the two parties, which are sharing power in the state’s divided government, will come to any major agreements. There are also unanswered questions about whether Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a devout Christian widely thought to be considering a presidential run, has any interest in signing legislation that might allow future opponents to tag him as a legal weed guy.

Asked last week whether he would sign a bill creating a retail marijuana market in Virginia, Youngkin dodged.

“Right now we’re very focused on making sure the enforcement and consumer protection laws are straightened out with regards to hemp and delta-8, and we’re seeing products on shelves that are being mislabeled, and we’re seeing products that are targeted towards children,” Youngkin told reporters at the Capitol. “That’s the bill I’m most focused on. I haven’t seen any other bills.”

JM Pedini, executive director of pro-legalization group Virginia NORML, said the legislature can either find a way forward on retail sales for adult use or “choose to continue ceding control of cannabis in the commonwealth to unlicensed, unregulated operators.”

“If public safety is an actual priority for either chamber, then they will approve legislation to begin sales at licensed dispensaries as soon as possible,” Pedini said.


NBC12 is a partner with The Virginia Mercury, an independent, nonprofit online news...
NBC12 is a partner with The Virginia Mercury, an independent, nonprofit online news organization covering state government and policy.(Virginia Mercury)