(The Center Square) – Debate over legislation to legalize marijuana in Virginia will head into next week as Democratic lawmakers try to reach a compromise on different approaches through a joint conference committee.
House and Senate lawmakers passed their own versions of marijuana legalization, but key differences in local authority, timing and licensing rules will need to be hashed out before they can produce agreed-upon legislation.
Both versions would legalize the cultivation, transport and sale of marijuana by 2024, but differ on when possession will be fully legalized. The House version would legalize possession at the same time of sale, while the Senate version would legalize possession beginning in June of this year. Marijuana possession is currently decriminalized in Virginia and simple possession will only land a person a $25 fine.
The Senate version would include an opt-out clause for local governments, which would let them prohibit the sale of marijuana within their jurisdiction; however, possession would still be legal statewide. The House version would not let localities opt out, but would subject marijuana sales to local zoning laws.
License capacity restrictions for marijuana would also be less strict in the Senate version than the House version.