Could the Virginia Election Next Month Set the Stage for Legal Marijuana Sales?
As the leaves begin to fall, so does the anticipation of a momentous event in Virginia—the upcoming election. With every single one of Virginia's 140 legislative seats up for grabs, the vote could reshape the political landscape and have profound implications for hot-button issues like marijuana legalization.
When all is said and done, lawmakers and advocates believe that the composition of the House of Delegates and Senate will play a defining role in determining the future of cannabis policy in the commonwealth. In this blog post, we'll delve into the potential impact of the Virginia election on the future of legal marijuana sales.
A Pivotal Moment for Marijuana
JM Pedini, the executive director of Virginia NORML, emphasized the significance of this election in shaping the future of cannabis policy in Virginia, stating that "the fate of cannabis policy in Virginia will absolutely be determined by the outcome of this November's election." As voters head to the polls, marijuana is undeniably on the ballot, and the results will determine the course of action in 2023 and beyond.
In 2021, Virginia took significant strides by legalizing the use, possession, and limited personal cultivation of marijuana by adults. However, the road to allowing commercial sales remains uncharted. The Republican majority in the House has consistently opposed legislation enabling retail sales. Most recently, they voted down a bill passed in February by the Democratic-controlled Senate, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D).
According to Sen. Ebbin, "We're not going to make progress on cannabis without a Democratic majority in the Virginia General Assembly. Republicans in the House have repeatedly stymied our efforts to move forward on regulation and sales of a tested, legal product."
On one side of the divide, Democrats in the legislature advocate for the legalization of marijuana sales. They aim to provide a regulated and controlled environment for adult-use sales. In contrast, elected Republicans have expressed a preference for cracking down on illicit cannabis retailers and delivery services that have flourished in recent years.
Currently, the Virginia legislature is divided. Democrats hold a slim majority of Senate seats, while Republicans maintain control of the House. This precarious balance makes it challenging for either party to pass substantial cannabis reform.
Pedini aptly summarized the situation: "Today we have a divided legislature, with Democrats controlling one chamber and Republicans controlling the other. If that remains the case after November, we can expect more of the same: little to no momentum on cannabis legislation."
A Glimpse of Future Possibilities
If either party manages to secure control of both chambers, it opens up the possibility of more significant changes—either in favor of legalization or against it. According to Pedini, the most favorable scenario for advancing a legal sales bill would be full Democratic control of both the House and Senate. In this case, lawmakers could send legislation to Governor Glenn Youngkin (R), who was elected in 2021 and is set to serve until the end of 2025.
Governor Youngkin has expressed reservations about permitting legal marijuana sales. His administration has stated that he "is not interested in any further moves towards the legalization of adult recreational use marijuana." Advocates remain hopeful that the significant support for marijuana legalization among Virginia voters might persuade the governor not to veto any legislative-passed reform bill or to return it to lawmakers with suggestions for substantial amendments.
For advocates and lawmakers alike, the challenge lies in determining what form of legislation might be acceptable to Governor Youngkin. One option that has been suggested is a bill from the 2022 legislative session, which would have allowed currently licensed medical marijuana dispensaries to expand sales to adults aged 21 and older. Under this proposal, producers would have been required to pay a $1 million fee, and products would be subject to a 21 percent excise tax.
Sen. Ebbin also pointed out the challenge of working with a governor who hasn't been forthcoming about his views on cannabis policy, saying, "I'm not sure what the governor will sign, since he's been kind of cagey and not really supportive in his public statements. But the only way we're gonna move forward is with a Democratic majority."
The Potential Implications of the Virginia Election
The outcome of the upcoming election in Virginia holds significant implications for various policy issues, including cannabis reform. If the vote swings in favor of either party capturing both chambers, there's potential for transformative changes. However, the opposite outcome could be detrimental.
Should Republicans secure control of both chambers, concerns among legalization advocates arise. The fear is that Virginia could become the first state in the modern cannabis movement to reverse legalization, effectively returning to prohibition. The result could be the rollback of the substantial progress made toward legal marijuana.
Ebbin expressed these concerns, stating, "That is a very valid concern. We have a lot of big issues effectively on the ballot in November—they include the progress we've made on cannabis, a woman's right to choose, LGBT rights, and the environment—and Republicans have shown an appetite repeatedly to move backward on these important issues."
As the election draws nearer, it's essential to consider the potential impact on cannabis policy and make informed choices at the ballot box.
The Role of Marijuana Advocacy Groups
Advocacy groups play a crucial role in shaping the future of cannabis policy. Chelsea Higgs Wise, the executive director for Marijuana Justice, a Black-led organization in Virginia, has been at the forefront of the movement to legalize marijuana while emphasizing the importance of repairing the harms caused by the war on drugs.
Wise acknowledges the significant impact of the upcoming election on cannabis policy but also highlights the influence of new members, new districts, and evolving committee compositions within the legislature. She suggests that new legislators may be less inclined to take on sweeping changes, and marijuana legalization is historically a complex issue.
Moreover, the looming presence of Governor Youngkin is expected to cast a shadow over efforts to advance legalization, even if Democrats control both chambers. According to Wise, if the governor doesn't support the initiative, new legislators may not prioritize marijuana legalization.
Wise does not anticipate that Republicans, if they gain control of both chambers, would attempt to outlaw personal use and possession. Instead, she believes they might focus on increasing resources for law enforcement and cracking down on illegal pop-up shops. Advocates like Wise emphasize the need for comprehensive reform that goes beyond legal sales, including measures that address the harms caused by drug prohibition.
Marijuana Justice, for instance, calls for legislation that includes steps to undo drug-war harms, such as automatic expungement of past convictions and the inclusion of social equity ownership in the legal market. The focus is on providing relief to individuals impacted by past cannabis-related convictions and rebuilding communities that have borne the brunt of prohibition.
The Importance of Comprehensive Cannabis Reform
The discussions around marijuana policy aren't limited to quick paths to legal sales. Advocates like Wise argue that the focus should be on addressing past injustices and creating a fair and equitable cannabis industry. This approach involves expunging past convictions, supporting social equity ownership, and ensuring that profits benefit individuals and communities affected by prohibition.
Sen. Ebbin acknowledges the importance of diverse ownership within the cannabis industry but notes the challenge of achieving equity measures in the face of Republican opposition. He emphasizes the significance of tax revenue allocation and reinvestment in disadvantaged communities as a way to help those who have been most affected by cannabis prohibition.
The Role of Medical Marijuana
Amidst the discussions about recreational marijuana, it's important to recognize the enduring value of medical marijuana programs. Obtaining a medical marijuana card remains a significant choice for individuals seeking relief from various health conditions. These programs provide a legal and controlled framework for patients to access specific treatments tailored to their medical needs.
For individuals in search of alternative treatments and relief from various health conditions, obtaining a medical marijuana card opens doors to a world of regulated, personalized care. The experience is built on professionalism, safety, and individualized guidance, ensuring that patients receive the support they need.
Medical marijuana is particularly valuable for individuals who require specific strains or formulations to manage their conditions. The medical program offers a variety of products, including high-CBD, low-THC options, which may not be readily available in the recreational market.
The Virginia election next month holds the potential to reshape the landscape of cannabis policy in the commonwealth. As voters cast their ballots, they're not just deciding who will represent them; they're also influencing the trajectory of marijuana legalization in Virginia.
Regardless of the outcome, it's essential to recognize that medical marijuana remains a reliable choice for patients seeking alternative treatments. The focus on comprehensive reform and addressing past injustices is equally vital.
As the election date approaches, voters have an opportunity to participate in shaping the future of marijuana in Virginia. The decision they make will have lasting effects on the direction of cannabis policy and, ultimately, the lives of Virginians.
Get Your Medical Marijuana Card Today
Lucky for you, medical marijuana is already legal in Virginia! You can get your medical marijuana card today if you have a qualifying condition and see if cannabis helps with your depressive symptoms.
Recreational marijuana is legal in Virginia too, but it does not mean much since there are no recreational dispensaries to purchase products from.
There are also countless benefits to having your medical card in a recreational state! You will save money on taxes and cannabis products and enjoy higher possession and purchase limits if you have your medical card in Virginia!
In order to qualify for your medical marijuana card, you will need to have a condition that would make you eligible. If you aren’t sure if you would qualify, give us a call and we can answer any questions you may have about the process.
If you don’t already have your card, no worries. We can help! If you think you could benefit from medical marijuana, there is a good chance you would qualify for your medical card in the State of Virginia. With telemedicine, it is now easier than ever to get your medical card from the comfort of your own home!
In Virginia, any inhibiting condition could qualify you for your medical card. If you don’t already have it, we can help! Schedule an evaluation online today and we’ll make an appointment for you with one of our knowledgeable, compassionate doctors.
Doctors Who Care.
Relief You Can Trust.
At Virginia Marijuana Card, our mission is helping everyone achieve wellness
safely and conveniently through increased access to MMJ. Our focus on
education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce the stigma for our patients by
providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.
Call us at (888) 633-5808, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!