Exclusive: Hampton Roads delegate filing bill to legalize adult-use marijuana in Virginia

Posted at 9:06 PM, Jan 05, 2021

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - News 3 is getting a first look at a bill aimed at legalizing adult-use marijuana in Virginia.

The bill is drawn up by Hampton Roads Delegate Steve Heretick, who represents the Commonwealth’s 79th District. It comes nearly two months after Governor Ralph Northam expressed support for the issue heading into the 2021 General Assembly session.

“This is a big bill,” Heretick told News 3. “[It’s] probably one of the biggest policy bills we're going to see in the Virginia legislature in the 2021 session.”

Heretick said if passed, it would allow stores to sell one ounce of retail marijuana and six flowering marijuana plants to a person.

“We call this a 'seed-to-sale' bill,” he said. “I think it's time for Virginia to take a very mature, disciplined approach to analyzing what marijuana policy should be for consenting adults.”

Heretick told News 3 his bill argues the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) be the agency responsible for overseeing the manufacturing of marijuana.

“VDACAS already regulates the cultivation of hemp,” Heretick said. “We have a state agency that's already performing the function, that's working with the farmers, working with the testing laboratories, making sure that that product is safe and marketable as we expect it to be. It seems to be the next logical step for that same agency.”

The bill grants cities and counties the right to enact laws creating additional licensing requirements for businesses and allows for home cultivation for personal use under certain circumstances.

“The bill does allow localities to decide for themselves, whether they're going to allow marijuana to be manufactured and sold in their jurisdictions,” he said.

It would also impose a tax on retail marijuana and products sold by a store at a rate of 9.7%, with a chance for cities and counties to add local taxes for their own benefit, for a total of 15% sales tax.

The bill also goes on to state that 67% of the revenues collected from the tax will go into the General Fund, while 33% will go into a special fund called the "Retail Marijuana Education Support Fund” to help public education in the Commonwealth.

Heretick told News 3 the numbers regarding the taxes and allocations could change moving forward. He added he’d personally like to see part of the funds go towards addiction support programs.

The bill also includes criminal penalties.

“For those who want to continue to manufacture and sell marijuana illegally - that is, without a license - there is still a crime attached to that,” Heretick said. “We will continue to criminalize things, like driving under the influence of marijuana.”

Tuesday afternoon, News 3 reached out to the Northam administration for comment on Heretick bill and were told they were unable to take part in an interview.

Overall, Heretick is open to collaboration and said his bill is a good starting point.

“The more minds and voices that we have at this table, the better the outcome is going to be,” he said. “Let's at least make it safe. Let's make it predictable. Let's regulate it, and let's benefit from it.”

Heretick told News 3 he plans to file the bill Wednesday morning.