The changes that could be coming to Virginia's marijuana laws

Marijuana Legalization
Posted at 11:25 AM, Apr 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-27 11:25:08-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- A vote by the General Assembly on Wednesday may significantly change how marijuana is criminalized, and how the hemp industry operates. The General Assembly is back for "Veto Day" and one bill many have their eyes on is SB591.

It’s brought Virginians like Jason Amatucci, the President of the Virginia Hemp Coalition, to Richmond. He believes the bill greatly impacts his industry in a negative way.

“It started out as a one-line thing, and then turned into a monster. We’re calling it the Frankenstein hemp bill,” he said.

His group is taking issue with the original bill and the changes made by Governor Glenn Youngkin.

The original bipartisan bill was brought by Senator Emmett Hanger and was aimed at regulating hemp products that kids may mistake.

SB591 would ban the sale of any substance that contains more than .25 milligrams of THC per serving. That means Delta 8, a synthetic version of THC made from hemp. It would also force officials to regulate production to not allow these products to be produced in an animal, shape or fruit.

Youngkin didn’t sign that bill. Instead, he sent it back to lawmakers with additions.

He added that people could face criminal charges for having more than two ounces of marijuana. Right now, having over one ounce of marijuana could just result in a civil penalty in Virginia.

He also added making nonintoxicating CBD products like lotions and cremes illegal for people under 21. Youngkin also included more restrictive testing for THC.

Amatucci believes the bill goes too far. He said retail stores will have to completely change how they do business with CBD. He also said it’ll impact how hemp is tested.

“It takes away Delta 8, we want it to be regulated and kept from teenagers and children of course,” he said.

Youngkin’s office said he added most of these recommendations from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission. They reviewed the 2021 marijuana law and provided recommendations.

Youngkin also said it was important to him because law enforcement asked to clarify what levels of marijuana possession would result in penalties. He also said he increased buying hemp products to the age of 21, and he felt synthetic Delta 8 should be removed from shelves.

Lawmakers will revote on the bill with those changes on Wednesday.

Advocates like the Hemp Coalition said they plan to make sure their voices are heard.

“It shows that a lot of people don’t understand this. I think they need to start understanding the hemp industry before they pass bills to harm it,” Amatucci said.