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Marijuana retail market bills advance after votes in General Assembly

Bills intended to launch Virginia’s recreational marijuana retail market took steps forward in the General Assembly this week.

The Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that would allow legal sales of recreational pot to start in January 2025.

Meanwhile, the House of Delegates on Monday passed legislation that would allow a few companies to begin sales starting in January 2025, with a wider rollout of the market in July 2025.

The two bills – Senate Bill 448 and House Bill 698 – vary not only in their approaches to market rollout, but also how many licenses would be available and who could take advantage of state-sponsored business support programs.

SB 448 envisions a single start date of Jan. 1, 2025, for anyone who wants to sell recreational pot, though licenses needed to operate legally in the market would start to be made available in July of this year.

Sen. Aaron Rouse (D-Virginia Beach), noting that Virginia legalized personal use of marijuana in 2021 but didn’t follow through in 2022 with the creation of a legal retail market, argued for regulations as a means to address the subsequent greater rise of a black market and associated issues in the state.

“Since that time, we’ve seen a major expansion of the illegal market where unregulated, untested and untaxed products are sold,” said Rouse, who introduced SB 448, ahead of the Senate’s vote this week. “We hear from Scott County to Virginia Beach that this is a true public safety and public health crisis.”

The latest version of Rouse’s bill would allow the Cannabis Control Authority, which would be tasked with overseeing the retail market, to award no more than 300 retail licenses, 50 wholesalers licenses, 60 manufacturer licenses and 450 grower licenses to operate in different sectors of the future legal industry.

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