For Now, General Assembly Makes Dreams of Commercialization of Marijuana Go Up In Smoke

By Victoria Cobb, this text was originally published by the Virginia Family Foundation.

Last week, the House General Laws committee carried over until 2023 SB 391 (D-Ebbin), which shelves the effort to commercialize marijuana products, including edibles, for a year.  SB 391 turned into a 450-page bill that would have established the actual framework for the creation of a cannabis market in the Commonwealth. That includes a regulatory and licensing scheme for the cultivation, manufacture, and wholesale of marijuana products to be administered by the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority.

This bill would’ve been disastrous for Virginia, potentially allowing for a “pot shop” on every street corner and leading to more addictions and hospital visits among our youth.

Proponents have tried to scare legislators into thinking that the “black market” will continue to grow if a retail market and regulatory scheme are not established.  But the reality is the black market was in place long before the Democrat majority decided to legalize marijuana last year, and based on the experience in other states, it only expands its operations in places where a retail market exists.

As explained by our policy team, SB 391 is really nothing more than a cannabis addiction plan intended to appeal to the curiosity of adolescents with the hope of cultivating new customers addicted to this dangerous substance to increase profits.

After hearing testimony on February 24th from both proponents and opponents of SB 391, a House General Laws Subcommittee held a follow-up meeting on Monday, February 28, during which they voted to continue this bill to 2023 on a party line 5 -3 vote.  In that meeting, Delegate Jeff Campbell (R-Marion), who made the motion to continue the bill until next year, said “I think this is a bigger issue than we can correct in two weeks’ time.”

Then, on Tuesday, March 1, the full House General Laws Committee voted 12-10 to continue the bill to 2023, a move that effectively kills the bill for the year.

(Note: Republican Delegates Morefield and Walker voted “Y” (green) and Democratic Delegate Murphy voted “N” (red), to continue to 2023.)

Following the committee vote, Dana Schrad, executive director of Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police and Foundation, said “[t]his is a victory for public safety and families across Virginia.  A new addiction-for-profit industry is the last thing our state needs as we contend with the opioid crisis.”

While the committee vote was a wise decision, the bill’s proponents and lobbyists are still trying to circumvent the committee process and incorporate all or portions of SB 391 into other bills.  But The Family Foundation and its coalition partners are continuing to monitor the issue closely, and will see it through until the end of the General Assembly Session on March 12th.

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