Bill to legalize retail marijuana sales advancing through General Assembly

Retail sales would begin on May 1, 2025

RICHMOND, Va. – The path to legalized recreational marijuana sales in the Commonwealth may become a reality but the chances are slim.

A day after a Virginia House panel approved a new compromise bill to legalize retail marijuana sales, a Senate committee has also advanced the deal.

On Friday morning, members of the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee voted 9–5 in favor of the latest version of the sales legislation.

The House of Delegates and the Senate both had bills with similarities and differences. Now the language and ramifications have moved into one whole bill to be voted on by the House first.

Greg Habeeb, an attorney and lobbyist who helped draft the legislation wants people to understand this.

“Let’s be clear with what this bill does not do. This bill doesn’t legalize marijuana in Virginia, that’s already happened,” Habeeb said. “Folks need to understand these products exist, they’re being sold. They’re being sold by the bad guys. The government has a job to play to keep citizens safe.”

The legislation would limit the number of licenses issued to marijuana retail stores statewide to 350 (with an allowable square footage of floor space capped at 2,500 square feet).

House and Senate Democrats also agreed on the tax rate for cannabis products, which they set at 9%, with 4.5% going to localities and another 4.5% to the state.

One of the other goals of the bill is to help smaller businesses that want to get involved in the market get their foot in the ground through a micro-business program.

“There’s a role for the big guys to play but we want the small players, whether they are small cultivators who want to grow a boutique product or whether they’re people who want to get into retail. We want them to have a place in the market,” Habeeb said.

The fund would be financed 100% by the licensing fees collected by the authority during the first year. After that, 60% of the remaining funds would go toward supporting the microbusinesses program, 25% would fund substance use disorder treatment and prevention, 10% would go to pre-K programs for at-risk children and 5% would fund a public health and awareness campaign.

The bill has received pushback from some groups including the Virginia State Police Association and the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police.

“We have a fear that the retail sales of Marijuana are going to create more and more organized crime...problems with DUIs,” Bill Carrico with the Virginia State Police Association said.

Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles to enacting the legislation is getting Gov. Youngkin’s signature.

“You can be against marijuana but nobody should be for drug dealers. In the current system ... is a pro-drug dealer system. We have untested products being sold to kids by drug dealers. No money to enforce it, no money for public health, no money for public safety ... it just doesn’t make any sense,” Habeeb said.

About the Author

Connor Dietrich joined the 10 News team in June 2022. Originally from Castle Rock, Colorado, he's ready to step away from the Rockies and step into the Blue Ridge scenery.

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