Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin on Thursday vetoed a bill to legalize recreational marijuana sales, saying that regulated sales of cannabis would be a danger to health and safety. Virginia legalized the possession of small amounts of weed three years ago, but consumers remain without a legal way to purchase cannabis in the state.

The governor vetoed two identical bills passed by each chamber of the state legislature, SB 448 in the Senate and HB 698 in the House of Delegates. The legislation would have established a regulated cannabis market in Virginia, including provisions for the licensing of small and large retailers. 

Virginia lawmakers legalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults in 2021. But when the Republicans took control of the House of Delegates following an election later that year, a required second vote to legalize regulated cannabis sales was never held. 

“The proposed legalization of retail marijuana in the Commonwealth endangers Virginians’ health and safety,” Youngkin said in his veto statement. “States following this path have seen adverse effects on children’s and adolescent’s health and safety, increased gang activity and violent crime, significant deterioration in mental health, decreased road safety, and significant costs associated with retail marijuana that far exceed tax revenue.”

“It also does not eliminate the illegal black-market sale of cannabis, nor guarantee product safety,” the governor continued. “Addressing the inconsistencies in enforcement and regulation in Virginia’s current laws does not justify expanding access to cannabis, following the failed paths of other states and endangering Virginians’ health and safety.”

While Youngkin had previously made it clear he was not interested in authorizing regulated weed sales in Virginia, Democrats had hoped the legislation which serve as a bargaining chip in negotiations for a plan supported by the governor to build a $2 billion sports complex in northern Virginia. But earlier this month, the legislature passed the state’s final budget without including funding for the proposal, setting the stage for Thursday’s veto of the cannabis sales bill.

Lawmakers Blast Veto

Democratic Delegate Paul Krizek, the lead sponsor of the weed marketplace bill in the Virginia House of Delegates, said that the governor’s veto will further empower the state’s unregulated weed economy.

“Governor Youngkin’s failure to act allows an already thriving illegal cannabis market to persist, fueling criminal activity and endangering our communities,” he said in a statement cited by Politico. “This veto squandered a vital opportunity to safeguard Virginians and will only exacerbate the proliferation of illicit products, posing greater risks to our schools and public safety.”

Democratic state Senator Aaron R. Rouse, the sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, also decried Youngkin’s refusal to approve the legislation.

“This veto blocks a pivotal opportunity to advance public health, safety, and justice in our Commonwealth,” Rouse said in a written statement to the Associated Press.

Rouse further criticized Youngkin’s veto of the marijuana sales bills on social media, writing on X that the governor’s “dismissive stance towards addressing Virginia’s cannabis sales dilemma is unacceptable. Public servants are obligated to tackle pressing issues. This legislation would have combated the illegal market & ensured access to safe, tested and taxed cannabis products.”

Governor Also Nixes Cannabis Sentencing Bill

Youngkin also vetoed a cannabis sentence modification bill (SB 696) spearheaded by the Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit working to secure the release of all cannabis prisoners. Adrian Rocha, policy manager at the group, denounced the veto as a continuation of outdated policy.

“Under the bill, thousands of individuals charged for cannabis offenses under outdated laws would have had their sentences reevaluated in light of legalization,” he wrote in a statement emailed to High Times. “Instead, the Governor’s veto message not only ignored the intention of this bill but, more importantly, ignored the plight of thousands of families across the Commonwealth whose lives have been permanently altered by prohibitionist laws repealed three years ago!”

“Virginia may have ended cannabis prohibition in 2021, but there remains a significant injustice for those individuals who continue to be incarcerated for offenses that are no longer considered illegal,” Rocha added.

Although Youngkin nixed both bills, Democrats still have another chance to make them law by overriding his vetoes. The legislature returns to the capitol on April 17 to reconsider bills vetoed or amended by the governor.

The post Virginia Governor Vetoes Bill To Legalize Cannabis Sales appeared first on High Times.


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