Republican lawmakers in Virginia are considering changes to the state’s adult-use cannabis law, according to an AP News report.
Legislators have said that while they will not seek to overturn the law, they do want to tweak the statute that passed last year to legalize cannabis possession and sales.
Changes might include launching retail sales earlier and eliminating a provision that would give licensing preference to people with past cannabis-related convictions, AP News reported.
Former Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed the state’s adult-use legalization bill into law last spring after the Legislature approved last-minute amendments to expedite the cannabis possession and home grow measures to take effect July 1, 2021. The legislation called for sales to launch in 2024, but also included a reenactment clause that requires the Legislature to reauthorize the bill before it can take effect.
When the legislation passed last year, Democrats controlled both chambers of the Legislature, but Republicans have since taken control of the House in the November election and incoming Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin has replaced Northam, a Democrat.
Republican lawmakers have filed at least eight bills that call for amendments to the original law, according to AP News, including changes that remove some of the social equity provisions aimed to support those who have been negatively impacted by the war on drugs.
Legislation sponsored by Republican Del. Michael Webert would redirect the 30% of adult-use cannabis sales tax revenues that were earmarked for a Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund to rebuilding school buildings in the state, AP News reported. The bill would also scrap a provision that provides special licensing consideration to social equity applicants, although it leaves intact provisions that would give licensing preference to those in economically disadvantaged areas and those who attended one of Virginia’s historically black colleges or universities (HBCUs).
“We are trying to ensure that the money goes to where it’s most needed,” Webert told the news outlet. “To be in a good school environment, to provide a good, safe school building and an atmosphere in which a child can learn will be a great asset for that person’s future.”
Webert’s legislation would also cut the tax rate on adult-use cannabis sales from 21% to 10% in an attempt to squash the illicit market, AP News reported.
“The overriding top-tier concern is that we have to have a regulatory structure in place for retail sales that does not encourage the black market,” Garren Shipley, a spokesperson for House Speaker Todd Gilbert, told the news outlet.
Other Republican-sponsored bills propose launching adult-use sales in 2023 instead of 2024 by allowing Virginia’s existing medical cannabis businesses to serve the broader market, according to the news outlet. Additional pieces of pending legislation would give licensing preference to farmers operating in Virginia’s hemp market, or those in economically disadvantaged areas.
Macaulay Porter, a spokesperson for Youngkin’s office, told AP news that the governor has concerns about certain aspects of the bill lawmakers passed last year to create a commercial adult-use market.
“It includes forced unionization, is concerning to law enforcement, and establishes an unstable market that includes anti-competitive business provisions that set Virginia up to fail,” Porter told the news outlet. “He’s ready to work in good faith to address these and other issues in concert with the General Assembly.”