Virginia Moving Quickly on Cannabis Legalization
Proposals to legalize adult-use recreational cannabis in the state of Virginia were approved by key committee votes in the House and Senate over the last weekend in January. The rush comes as part of a race to qualify the proposed bills for full floor votes before the mid-session deadline on Friday, February 5th.
Governor Ralph Northam (D) and other top Virginia lawmakers revealed their legalization plan in mid-January with hopes of passing a measure in 2021. In order for bills to survive into the next stage of the process, versions of the marijuana proposal must be cleared by both the House and Senate at-large by Friday.
Senate and House Committees Unify Behind Virginia Cannabis
Vice chair of the House of Courts Justice Committee Vivian Watts (D) said that the committee is operating at “breakneck speed” in hopes of accelerating the House version of the legislation for referral to the House Appropriations Committee. Should it succeed there, the bill would advance for a vote on the House floor.
The Senate is also working on their own version of a marijuana legalization bill, which was approved by the Judiciary Committee early in the morning on February 1st. Their version of the bill is now passed along to the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, who will meet on February 2nd, before potentially proceeding all the way to the Senate floor.
Lingering Questions Remain Over Specific Details Regarding Bills
With the two cannabis legalization bills sailing through a total of five committees and subcommittees over the past three days, momentum appears to be headed in the right direction towards legalization.
Although amendments have been made to both versions of the bill, lawmakers appearing at hearings over the weekend still have questions about specific aspects of the proposals such as:
- Business regulation
- Effective Dates
- Social Equity
- Violation penalties
While some questions went unanswered, legislative leaders stressed that further opportunities to make changes would arise as the proposal proceeds through the House and Senate.