As the Saturday deadline approaches, state legislators in the Senate and House haven’t resolved their differences over the landmark reform that would authorize cannabis in Virginia.
By yesterday evening, it was uncertain whether both chambers could arrive at a consensus over the legislation, which Governor Ralph Northam has prioritized during his final lap in office.
Only one legislator discreetly doubted the policy change would be approved. The others were optimistic and even admitted discussions had become tense, suggesting a vote might be imminent as soon as Friday.
Based on 5 sources who are familiar with the discussions, the fundamental contention point is the language that the Senate is seeking which would stall decisions over how the new cannabis market is controlled and regulated up to 2022. Last month, the chamber’s members asserted during the hearings that they felt the policy was extremely complex and expansive to be completed during the 45-day 2021 session.
Legislators in the House have opposed, stating that delay is irrelevant while citing in-depth research studies performed by Northam’s administration and legislative analysts. House legislators were also dissatisfied about voting to authorize the substance without completing efforts for a legal marijuana marketplace, based on the five sources who offered details while hiding their identity.
If a reform emerges after the negotiations, it’s possible that it might disappoint civil rights activists who have been championing for an immediate expungement of cannabis-related criminal penalties.
Both chambers approved legalization reforms that would prohibit recreational marijuana sales up to 1st January 2024. They also agreed that they need to create a new marijuana authority to oversee the sector.
However, they didn’t agree on whether cannabis-related criminal penalties should remain in place until sales commence. The House passed a reform that doesn’t end cannabis prohibition up to 2024 while the Senate submitted a legislation that authorizes an ounce or less marijuana possession starting 1st July this year.