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Virginia House’s legal pot bill heads for final floor vote

Christine Glenn sorts marijuana at a dispensary in Las Vegas.
John Locher
Christine Glenn sorts marijuana at a dispensary in Las Vegas.

Northern Virginia Delegate Paul Krizek brought his chamber's legal weed market bill to the House floor for its second reading Friday.

It would create a framework for a legal marketplace, with marijuana retail and small business licenses being issued starting in 2025. It requires testing and regulation by the Virginia Cannabis Authority, all while being taxed at 9%, one of the lowest tax rates in the nation. Krizek said that would help compete with the illegal market.

In 2020 the Virginia legislature, with Democrats in control of both chambers and the governor’s mansion, decriminalized marijuana.

But the second step in that process, creating a legal market, failed to pass when Republicans took control of the House in 2021. With Dems back in control of both chambers, and anxiety as the state's current system has few controls on the market currently in place, efforts to regulate are starting to materialize.

“We only get one shot at a retail market, and we have to get it right,” Krizek said.

While Republicans have gotten softer on legal weed, they still voiced concerns Friday. Eastern Shore Delegate Robert Bloxom was worried that the plan requires localities to opt-out of sales, not opt in. And in rural parts of the state, where towns and counties blend over large areas, it could make a complicated patchwork of laws.

“I don’t need two towns on the Eastern shore to become distributors of marijuana to the rest of the county that doesn’t want it,” Bloxom said on the floor.

The Democratic majority all but guarantees passage of the effort in the House, same as in the Senate. Governor Glenn Youngkin said after his State of the Commonwealth speech earlier this year that he has no interest in supporting a legal market, but those close to the issue told Radio IQ good conversations were happening between legislators, lobbyists and the executive branch.

The House bill will likely be voted out of the chamber Monday. It’ll head to the Senate in the coming weeks.

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

Brad Kutner is Radio IQ's reporter in Richmond.