The Virginia legislature has been busy recently, tackling many of the challenges in cannabis legalization. The state’s House and Senate have each passed its own bill, each of them addressing different issues in legalization. Both measures (HB 2312 / SB 1406) would allow adults 21 and older to purchase up to one ounce of cannabis and cultivate up to four cannabis plants for personal use. Commercial production and retail sales would be regulated by the state, and taxes would fund investment in pre-K education and public health initiatives. The two bills would each create a new agency to regulate cannabis. As could be imagined, in most cases, the two bills are quite similar, with most of the differences coming from very specific details such as dates in the legalization timeline or quantities allowed for possession. The House bill, for example, would not decriminalize possession until 2024 when legal sales would begin while the Senate bill would legalize personal possession during the current year. These differences are mostly being resolved, but other larger differences continue to stand in the way of a final decision. The House bill would ban vertically integrated companies, meaning multiple companies would be forced to work together to bring cannabis from seed to market – cultivators, distributors, dispensaries, etc. The Senate bill would allow for vertically integrated companies to pay a fee of $1 million to the state equity fund in order to legally operate. The House bill would also limit the number of licenses that could be held by any individual to five, while the Senate bill would only limit cultivation licenses. Until the House and Senate are able to agree on a single bill, no changes will be made to the law. With deadlines looming, it’s possible that Virginians continue to wait for common sense cannabis legislation as another proposal will have to be made.
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