Virginia Adult Use Marijuana Laws Could be at Risk in the Next Election
Updated: Oct 25, 2021
Next month’s election in the Commonwealth of Virginia may well prove to be a pivotal one for the state's growing cannabis industry. With the governorship and control of the House of Delegates on the line, many cannabis advocates believe that a shift away from the current status quo could potentially turn the tide against recreational marijuana.
While those with medical marijuana cards will likely continue to enjoy that privilege in the long term, legislators in the House as well as the governor will be essential components in establishing and growing the recreational cannabis market over the next few years.
Isn’t Recreational Marijuana Good to Go in Virginia?
The sale of recreational marijuana was legalized under the deal finalized by the state legislative body at the end of the 2021 session. As things exist in the books as of today, recreational marijuana is on track for full, legal sales in 2024. What, then, could change with the election?
Some cannabis advocates believe that a change in control of the House or a new, Republican governor could result in rollbacks to planned recreational marijuana reforms. Sales provisions in the law are due for reenactment in the 2022 session— a Republican House or Governor could possibly result in significant delays or rollbacks. In a ‘worst case scenario,’ the legislature could even undo recreational marijuana sales provisions entirely.
Support for cannabis legalization, however, is pretty strong across the Commonwealth. Support for legalization even has a slim majority within Republican voters. Advocates fear the Republican candidate for governor, in particular, however. While Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin has asserted that he has no plans to overturn legalization, his D grade from NORML Virginia causes many advocates to doubt this assertion.
He has also stated in the past that he only supports limited legalization of cannabis in the Commonwealth. If elected, a Governor Youngkin could veto key provisions related to recreational marijuana sales or even enact amendments to existing legislation. Even if the Democrats hold on to their slim majority in the House, they would likely not have the power or momentum to stall these efforts.
Legalization: Wide Support in the Commonwealth
Despite being characterized by some as a wedge issue, there is a broad base of support in the Commonwealth for marijuana legalization.
A survey conducted in Virginia recently by Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center for Civic Leadership, found that more than two-thirds of adults in Virginia support adult-use legalization. This includes 51 percent of registered Republicans in the state.
While broad support may exist, the issue may come down to the how instead of the what. The timeline for implementation of rules regarding the sales of adult-use marijuana is quite long, giving an anti-cannabis legislature plenty of time to interfere. At issue may be the social equity components of the existing cannabis legislation.
Social Equity and Cannabis Legislation
Democrats and cannabis advocates ensured that social equity action was built into the original recreational marijuana legalization bill. What did this entail? Several measures, running the gamut from expunging marijuana convictions to offering support to BIPOC Virginians interested in getting into the cannabis sales market. All of these initiatives were put in place in order to address existing inequities in the system, including the high number of marijuana convictions amongst black Virginians.
These initiatives, however, may be a bridge too far for some of the more conservative politicians in the Commonwealth. Both Youngkins and his Attorney General candidate, Jason Miyares, have been critical of the social justice and equity components in the legislation. Jason Miyares himself voted against legalization during his term as a delegate in last year’s session. While Youngkins has insisted that he will not repeal legalization, his representatives have stated that Youngkins doubts the validity of statistics that claim the cannabis industry will bring in serious dollars for the state.
A study conducted by the legislature during the drafting of the bill estimated that cannabis could bring as much as 30 million dollars a year in revenue for Virginia. Youngkins’ representatives have also signaled that, as governor, he might work on preventing youth access to cannabis. What this entails remains vague, but it could involve the reversal of statutes that allow for the administration of medical marijuana to students in Virginia public schools.
With all of these issues on the line, cannabis advocates are making it clear that this election is an important one for the future of recreational marijuana in the Commonwealth. Virginians who are interested in preserving recreational marijuana in the state would do well to head to the polls come November. In the meantime, medical marijuana continues to have support on both sides of the aisle, benefitting a wide range of Virginians.
Get a Virginia Marijuana Card to Enjoy the Benefits of Medical Marijuana!
Medical marijuana offers a variety of benefits to those with certain conditions in Virginia. To learn how you can get your own medical marijuana card and find the right product for you, schedule an appointment to talk to a cannabis healthcare expert today.
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Call us at (888) 633-5808, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!
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