Virginia Lawmakers Reject Governor’s Cannabis Misdemeanor Proposal in Veto Session
Gov. Glenn Youngkin
Governor of Virginia; Adobe Stock

Virginia Lawmakers Reject Governor’s Cannabis Misdemeanor Proposal in Veto Session

The attempt by Gov. Youngkin was to establish new penalties for those in possession of more than 2 ounces of cannabis.

April 28, 2022

Virginia adults 21 and older can legally possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis, but the possession of up to 1 pound of will remain a civil violation with a max fine of $25, at least for now.

While first-year Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed 700 bills into law April 11, he added a proposed amendment to Senate Bill 591, one of the 141 bills he did not sign. His proposal was to establish new criminal misdemeanor penalties for people in possession of more than 2 ounces of cannabis.

That effort was squashed April 27 when the General Assembly held its veto session. Specifically, the amendment was defeated when legislators voted to re-refer the legislation to the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee for the next legislative session—killing the governor’s amendment for this year.

JM Pedini, NORML’s development director, said in a new release that there were pluses and minuses to the Senate kicking the can down the road. Pedini also serves as the executive director of Virginia NORML.

“The good news is Governor Youngkin’s effort to recriminalize personal possession failed,” Pedini said. “The bad news is lawmakers’ inaction today allows for products containing unregulated and potentially unsafe synthetically-derived THC products to continue to proliferate in Virginia.”

In part, S.B. 591 clarifies that the definition of “marijuana” excludes industrial hemp in several state code sections. Also, the bill defines “tetrahydrocannabinol” (THC) to include any naturally occurring or synthetic THC, removing specific references in state code to “delta-9” THC, according to the legislation’s summary.

Without the passage of the approved base text, Pedini said synthetically derived THC will continue to go unregulated in products sold at retail and wholesale outside the regulatory oversight currently required for legally produced cannabis products.

“Consumers deserve to know what they’re purchasing, and far too often what’s on the label is not what’s in the package when it comes to unregulated products,” Pedini said.

The public health and safety measures in the bill were held up because of Youngkin’s misdemeanor proposal, Pedini said.

“With his attempt to create new ways to criminalize Virginians for personal possession of cannabis having failed, Governor Youngkin’s administration should actually serve his constituents by establishing a legal adult-use marijuana market and ensuring that all cannabis products sold in the commonwealth are accurately labeled and regulated for consumer safety,” Pedini said.