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Governor Youngkin passes on retail marijuana market

Marijuana plants at a grow house in Denver are ready to be harvested.
Ed Andrieski
Marijuana plants at a grow house in Denver are ready to be harvested.

Earlier this week, Governor Glenn Youngkin vetoed a plan from Virginia Democrats for a retail marijuana market. It comes years after the state decriminalized the substance, allowing an illicit market to flourish.

Governor Glenn Youngkin has made his feelings about retail pot in Virginia known for a while now – including two weeks ago at an event in a Richmond suburb.

“I have no interest in there being a legal market in cannabis in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Youngkin said behind the counter of a local diner.

Since then, he’s released a six-page explanation for the veto, with “cannabis-induced psychosis” among his concerns.

Chelsea Higgs Wise is with Marijuana Justice, a group that seeks to see Virginia’s retail weed market developed in an equitable manner. She told Radio IQ that signing the measure could have created a regulated and taxed market.

“But unfortunately, it appears he’s more committed to criminalizing the residents of our Commonwealth,” Higgs Wise said.

Alexandria Delegate Paul Krizek was the patron of the House version of the bill.

And despite Youngkin’s concern of a “pot shop on every corner,” Krizek said it would have created a state agency to test and monitor products, added a 10% tax and limited the number of stores to about 350 licensed locations. Those guardrails won’t be in place now.

“You don’t know what you’re going to get out there on the street," Krizek said. "Drug dealers aren’t testing their products, they're not paying taxes and they’re certainly not confined to 350 retail locations.”

Krizek said the bill Democrats agreed to this year will be ready for a vote when a more sympathetic governor gets elected.

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.