Marijuana Legalization

A Christopher Newport University survey shows 60 percent of Virginians favor legalizing the retail sale of adult-use of marijuana products. Virginians’ attitudes, like Americans’ attitudes, are increasingly supportive of ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and replacing it with a legal marketplace in which products can be safely regulated and sold to responsible consumers.

“It comes as no surprise that a majority of Virginians support legalizing the sale of cannabis,” said NORML Development Director JM Pedini. “Virginians understand that prohibition has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars, derailed the lives of hundreds of thousands of hard-working Virginians, and that it has done nothing to protect our youth or provide for consumer safety. They’re ready for cannabis policies that work for, not against them.” 

“Absent a regulated marketplace, consumers of cannabis products won’t know whether they’re getting a safe, tested product or one contaminated with potentially lethal adulterants,” said Pedini, who also serves as Virginia NORML Executive Director. 

Under state law, adults 21 and older may legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana in public and cultivate up to four plants per household for personal use. However, retail sales in Virginia are currently permitted only to qualified medical patients.

“This is the third consecutive session in which the Virginia General Assembly will have a bite of the cannabis sales apple,” said Pedini.“It remains to be seen though if Republicans and Democrats will be able to agree on a path forward, or if they will again choose to continue ceding control of cannabis in the Commonwealth to unlicensed, unregulated operators. If public safety is an actual priority for either chamber, then they will approve legislation to begin sales at licensed dispensaries as soon as possible.”

Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin recently pivoted away from a question on whether he would sign legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis sales in Virginia. Instead, the Governor said that he is focused on bills which seek to address the production and sale of unregulated hemp-derived delta-8 products. “Let me be clear, the bill I am tracking and looking for is a bill that deals with hemp and delta-8 and the regulations and consumer safety around those products. Right now, we have products that are being mislabeled, mis-sold and targeted towards children,” Youngkin said. “That is the bill that I am watching to make sure that comes out because that’s the bill I want to sign.”

Said Pedini: “Governor Youngkin’s lack of direction on adult-use cannabis retail has created a near immovable obstacle for House Republicans. While one might assume the governor is aware that voters on both sides of the aisle overwhelmingly support legalization, his recent statements have left Virginians, including his supporters, scratching their heads.”.

Recently, fatalities and injuries have been associated with  the ingestion of unregulated cannabinoid products for which the lack of a regulatory framework has led to products of variable quality, purity, and safety. “Legalization that allows for regulatory oversight is the best way to address these issues, not continued prohibition, which only drives the sale of cannabis products further into the shadows of the illicit market,” Pedini added.

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