VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Virginia lawmakers will debate whether to move up the date marijuana sales become legal during their 2022 session.
Last year, the General Assembly passed a bill legalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana and said sales would start in 2024.
Proposals in this session would bump the date up to January 1, 2023, but the idea of moving it up to July 1, 2022, has also been floated.
"There does appear to be bipartisan agreement that progress must happen in the 2022 session when it comes to retail sales," said JM Pedini, the executive director of Virginia NORML.
With Republicans taking control of the House of Delegates and Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin in office, Republicans will have more of a say in shaping the regulatory framework than they did last year. Zero Republicans voted for the legalization bill last year.
Youngkin and his campaign have said several times he doesn't want the law to be repealed, including in a tweet last summer.
"I don't think there's any guarantee about how we're going to proceed. We need to talk with the Senate, obviously. We need to see where [Youngkin] is on this," said House Speaker Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah).
Earlier this week, the Cannabis Oversight Commission approved recommending sales be moved up to 2023.
"Sooner really is better. Virginians have been very vocal in calling for the timeline to be sped up," said Pedini, who also serves as the development director of the national NORML organization.
Local shops are hoping sales become legal earlier.
"I definitely know that the community is ready for it," said Kade Baird, the manager of Foggy Frog in Chesapeake.
Baird says he gets a lot of questions from customers about what's legal and what's not.
"Definitely a large amount of confusion is created by it. I have customers on a regular basis that are always asking what's going on with our laws," he said.
Lawmakers say marijuana will be one of the big issues they deal with during their session as advocates push for the earlier date.
"The timeline to legal sales absolutely must be expedited both for the public and consumer safety. Virginia has the fourth largest cannabis black market in the country. It's good to see the legislature get back to work to provide some resolution," said Pedini.