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Republican Vote on Cannabis Subcommittee Signals The Party is Still Unclear on Intentions for a Retail Market

Marijuana Legalization Virginia
Steve Helber
In this Thursday June 17, 2021 file photo cannabis plants are close to harvest in a grow room at the Greenleaf Medical Cannabis facility in Richmond.

The new presumptive Republican majority in the House of Delegates and Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin will inherit the sticky question of how to create a retail market for marijuana, which is currently legal in small amounts.

Democrats legalized small amounts of marijuana sooner rather than later during the last General Assembly session. But they didn’t legalize a retail market until 2024.

During this winter’s General Assembly debates there were concerns that large existing businesses like medical marijuana companies and hemp processors would dominate the market since they already are set up. Those companies were present at a subcommittee meeting of the Cannabis Oversight Commission Wednesday.

"Our pharmaceutical processors are ideally suited to help the Commonwealth expedite that they have a top-notch product," said Dylan Bishop, a lobbyist with with the cannabis business association of Virginia. "Admittedly, the adult use market is exponentially larger than our pharmaceutical market. And if we are to expedite this process, they may need some help in terms of supply chain."

Many Democrats and advocates also wanted to make sure that the profits from legal pot went to communities that were harmed by the war on drugs.

Wednesday a subcommittee of the Cannabis Oversight Commission voted to develop proposals for how the retail market could be licensed and regulated earlier.

Southwest Virginia Delegate Will Morefield voted to abstain, highlighting that where the new Republican majority or Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin stands on a retail market, or what it will look like, isn’t clear.

Democratic Senator Adam Ebbin of Alexandria said in the meeting that the illicit market for Marijuana is $1.8 billion.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Jahd Khalil is a reporter and producer in Richmond.