Gov. Youngkin won’t commit to approving a retail marijuana market in Virginia | Turn 420
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Gov. Youngkin won’t commit to approving a retail marijuana market in Virginia

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Glenn Youngkin dodged a question on whether he would sign legislation that would pave the way for retail marijuana sales in Virginia, saying he’s instead focused on setting regulations on hemp and delta-8 products.

People 21 and over can have small amounts of cannabis for recreational use in Virginia, but there’s no way for them to buy it legally. Virginia legalized possession of up to an ounce, but efforts to create a regulatory framework for recreational sales stalled in the General Assembly.

Democrats and Republicans have proposed bills for the 2023 legislative session to create a retail cannabis market in Virginia.

But questions linger over whether Youngkin would sign any of the bills into law. On Monday, the governor was noncommittal when asked if he would sign a bill to establish a market for recreational sales.

“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 told 8News. “That is the bill that I am watching to make sure that comes out because that’s the bill I want to sign.”

Under Virginia’s current law, adults can grow up to four marijuana plants in their homes, receive cannabis as a gift or buy it from a medical dispensary with a license.

The bill passed in 2021 included a reenactment clause requiring the General Assembly to approve the measure again and set a framework for retail sales.

Youngkin has set his sights on establishing rules for hemp products, such as delta-8 and delta-10, that get people high but are legal to sell because they are largely unregulated.

The products, available at convenience stores, smoke shops and other places, have been tied to the death of a 4-year-old in Spotsylvania, according to reports. There are several Republican proposals to crack down on these hemp products, including one to ban delta-8 from being sold.

House of Delegates Speaker Todd Gilbert (Shenandoah) said before this year’s legislative session that Republicans were awaiting Youngkin’s guidance on establishing a retail cannabis market.

The Republican bills in the House have yet to be heard in the subcommittee it has been assigned to. Both measures would do away with “social equity” provisions that Democrats prioritized during the legalization debate.

A bill in the Virginia Senate to establish a retail market sponsored by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), the chief patron of the legalization bill that passed into law, is expected to pass out of the chamber as it did last year.

But the measure faces an uncertain fate in the House, where a Republican-controlled subcommittee rejected it last February.

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