At the time of this writing (early March) the State legislature in Virginia found it was in their best interest as a governing body to destroy an industry who has by and large only ever wanted to help people. The bill is on its way to the desk of Governor Glenn Youngkin who has repeatedly said himself that although this is not his bill, he is waiting for a bill like this to come out of the legislature so he can sign it. You see, since his first day in office Youngkin has been embroiled in this controversial piece of legislation, and we made it our job to have him hear from us, our advocates, and the hundreds of retailers and hundreds of thousands of consumers.
Last year we worked diligently to try and turn the tide in our favor. We were successful in producing a last minute hail mary, and in a unanimous 40-0 vote of the Senate a bill that aimed to destroy our industry evaporated from our reality. Following the veto session’s 40-0 vote, the legislature came back in their budget negotiations 30 days later and produced a fairly palatable bill with a couple of regulations we thought the industry and consumers could agree to (childproof packaging / age restrictions / testing standards.) As part of this they also formed a study group made up of their appointees that included the Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture, the General Counsel of Department of Agriculture, a representative from the Office of the Attorney General, and a litany of other government agencies and representatives. This group’s first meeting was very heavy handed and it became apparent we were not working with an unbiased study group, but were in fact defending ourselves in the court of public opinion. The study group’s report was not the glowing review of an industry well built as we had hoped it would be, but nevertheless we came into this session with high hopes and a good gameplan. We were supposed to be on the other side of the 100 year cannabis/hemp prohibition, not starting a new one. To add insult to injury? The legislature also can not seem to provide any sort of road map for recreational cannabis dispensaries in VA either. In fact, our best hope near the end of session was if they attached a piece of language to our bill that would have given more funding to the agency that regulates cannabis in hopes of giving them the ability to prepare for recreational cannabis. Sadly they knew the Governor wouldn’t sign it so they did not attach it.
It is my hope, and the hope of many others on the ground that we can one day have a strong enough voice to really make a difference when it comes to cannabis in many of these Southeastern US states. It’s been nearly 30 years since California first legalized medical cannabis, and the world looked a whole lot different back then. Look at any polling data on the issue, the VAST majority of the US wants some form of legal cannabis. Sadly, the state of Virginia is moving in the wrong direction.