As the state of Virginia gears to fully legalize marijuana by 2024, the Joint Commission on Cannabis Oversight of the General Assembly met last Tuesday, August 17, 2021, to discuss the rules and regulations it is slated to implement in the near future.
During the inaugural meeting, select Virginia lawmakers said that there have been discussions to expedite the process of legal marijuana sales in the area, particularly after a three-year delay in legalizing the plant, reports Virginia Mercury.
The delay in cannabis sales in the state supposedly stems from Virginia giving ample time to establish a new state authority. NBC 12 also maintains that the targeted 2024 sales will allow the state to meet and set up regulations for the marketplace.
In a statement during the first meeting of the Joint Commission on Cannabis Oversight, Del. Paul Krizek said, “We have legalized the use of marijuana, but we have not legalized the actual purchase of marijuana. What we need to do is get the safe sales of marijuana out there as soon as possible.”
“I think the sooner we can get some sales out there so people aren’t breaking the law by buying and selling the better,” continued Krizek in a statement, shared NBC 12. Krizek worries that the postponement of legal cannabis sales in Virginia until 2024 will only push individuals to buy from a black market.
To support their suggestions, the commission outlined a proposal from four licensed medical marijuana manufacturers in the state to start selling cannabis designed for recreational use.
NBC 12 reports lawmakers hope to make the safe access and use of the drug to happen, but only if the current medical marijuana license holders in the state are given the permission to sell recreational cannabis products as well.
House Majority Leader Charniele Herring said that she will bar any changes that can harm the existing social equity provisions program of the state, especially those made to address the effects of marijuana laws on minorities.
Current Cannabis Landscape in Virginia
Among the main issues discussed by the Joint Commission on Cannabis Oversight were plans for structuring the commercial market, as well as the penalties they were going to levy for people who possessed cannabis amounts that went over the legal threshold.
As of writing, Wavy states that cannabis users may possess up to an ounce of marijuana or an equivalent amount in cannabis products such as edibles, vape oil, and the like.
Those who go over the legal amount for possession – such as those who possess between an ounce and a pound of marijuana – will be fined $25. However, Wavy reveals that those who are caught having more than a pound of marijuana at a time could be given a fine of up to $250,000 and jail time of up to 10 years.
Legislative analyst over at JLARC Mark Gribbin suggested for Virginia to find a middle ground between these penalties, with the state to possibly consider having a misdemeanor penalty instead for those found having more than an ounce of marijuana on them rather than a felony charge right away.
Likewise, Virginia Mercury states that the only legal means of getting cannabis is through a gift or to grow the plant itself.