The future of legal cannabis in Virginia is even more uncertain after an election last week that replaced the commonwealth’s pro-legalization Democratic governor with a Republican who is skeptical about the issue and gave the GOP control of the state House of Delegates. Possession, personal use, and home cultivation will remain legal under a law that already took effect in July, but Democrats’ plan to establish a regulatory framework for commercial production and sales of cannabis products is now in their political opponents’ hands. The election’s outcome raises the question of whether Republicans will torpedo efforts to establish a legal retail cannabis system entirely—which legalization proponents say would keep consumers locked into what they say is the nation’s fourth-largest illicit marijuana market—or instead seek to negotiate with Democrats to create and regulate a legal industry on their own terms. “The question isn’t legalization. We’ve already enacted that. Now we have the other side of the legalization equation,” Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “We haven’t enacted the other major policy components, which are consumer safety and public safety, and those come from implementing a regulatory structure.” Even if GOP leaders agree to advance some form of legal sales regulations, the change in political control could also scrap Democrats’ effort to build racial and social equity programs into the market. Earlier this year, Republicans broadly opposed measures aimed at addressing the disproportionate impact of the drug war, for example by reserving some business licenses for people who attended historically Black colleges or universities or who were previously convicted of low-level cannabis offenses. Democratic proposals also would have offered technical assistance and low- or no-interest loans to equity applicants as well as created a state Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund to support communities harmed by the drug war. Those components are now in question.

Ben Adlin, Marijuana Moment, 11/09/2021 09:16:00

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