Marijuana is on its way to becoming legal in Virginia.
Jenn Michelle Pedini, the executive director of Virginia NORML, a nonprofit fighting for legalization and responsible adult-use of cannabis, called the passing of these two bills is a step forward.
“Last week we saw, really, more history being made with cannabis policy in Virginia. This was the first time that a marijuana legalization bill was not only heard, but debated and passed on the floor of not one, but both chambers,” said Pedini.
On Friday, the House and Senate passed two separate, slightly different bills.
The timeline of provisions in each bill is staggered. In the Senate bill, anyone 21 years and older would be allowed to possess less than an ounce of marijuana and the process to clear certain marijuana offenses both begin as early as July 1.
The two bills create an oversight committee, The Virginia Cannabis Control Authority. They also set aside revenue for Pre-K at-risk youth, public health programs, and substance abuse prevention and treatment.
In both bills, legal marijuana sales, which are expected to bring in about $300 million annually in state tax revenue, would not start until Jan. 1, 2024.
Localities also have the option to add their own tax.
“The tax revenue is going to be great for the state. They’re going to be able to fund programs that they didn’t have funding for before or, you know, not as much as they would have wanted,” said Ryan Schirmer, the managing owner of Your CBD Store in Brambleton Plaza.
Schirmer said there is a big market for more natural remedies for anxiety, pain, and sleeping problems. He said that many people like CBD because it is not intoxicating, others will want the effect of THC if the law is passed.
He’d also consider getting into the business someday.
“I think it’s great,” said Schirmer. “I don’t think there is somebody that loses in this situation.”
Lawmakers discussed their concerns with the bills, including a potential increase in impaired driving and the impact on teenagers.
“I knocked on seven doors where a mother or father cried with me and prayed with me because their 18-, 19-, 20-year-old son or daughter overdosed and died. And all seven of them said it started with a gateway drug: marijuana,” said Del. John J. McGuire III, a Repubican who represents Virginia’s 56th District, which includes Louisa County, as well as parts of Goochland, Henrico and Spotsylvania counties.
Next, both chambers have to review and vote on the same bill. If they pass that bill, it then heads to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk to sign it into law.
“Nothing about cannabis policy in Virginia is easy,” said Pedini. “The chambers certainly have their work cut out for them. They worked remarkably well to advance the bills this far. And we really are confident that they’ll be able to reconcile their differences and put forth a bill that they can all agree upon.”