The past few years have seen a wave of cannabis reform sweep across the United States. By the end of 2020, more than 30 states had legalized either recreational or medical cannabis, and several others were considering decriminalizing the controversial drug. The wave of cannabis reform has now reached the South after lawmakers in Virginia passed two cannabis legalization bills, making Virginia the 16th state in the country and the first in the South to legalize recreational cannabis.
However, a legislative committee will have to iron out the differences between the two pieces of legislation for Virginia to move forward with legalization. Since Gov. Ralph Northam and top state lawmakers unveiled a cannabis legalization proposal, several committees and subcommittees have gone through and amended the bills. The House approved the first bill in a 55-42 vote, and hours later, the Senate approved its legalization proposal with a 23-15 vote.
According to Sen. Adam Ebbin, sponsor of the bill, cannabis prohibition in the Commonwealth of Virginia has “clearly failed.” He calls the bill a forward-thinking, deliberative approach to create a regulated recreational cannabis market in the state. Speaking on the floor, he noted that the legislation will help reform Virginia’s criminal system and start the long process of undoing the harm caused by the decades’ long war on drugs.
During the floor debate, delegate Don Scott said the proposal would “provide social equity” and help improve the communities that have been most impacted and harmed by cannabis prohibition. The House version of the bill will head to the Senate while the Senate version would go to the House for consideration. A bicameral conference committee will be created to resolve the differences between the two bills and merge them into one proposal that the legislature will send to the governor’s desk.
One major difference that the committee will have to resolve is whether vertical integration will be allowed once the state launches its recreational cannabis market. At the moment, the bills would not allow the existing four vertically integrated medical marijuana operators in the state to transition to the recreational market. Additionally, the bills also call for launching a recreational cannabis market a year later than Northam wanted on Jan. 1, 2024.
Such a delay would give lawmakers enough time to create the Cannabis Control Authority, an independent agency to oversee the recreational cannabis market and to develop rules and regulations. Ebbin supports the delay, saying it will take time to do things right and launch the state’s cannabis market.
Virginia’s legalization issues aside, companies in other jurisdictions are thriving. A clear example is Grapefruit USA Inc. (OTCQB: GPFT), which has specialized in cannabis manufacturing, distribution and addressing the lifestyle needs of consumers under its Rainbow Dreams brand.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Grapefruit USA Inc. (OTCQB: GPFT) are available in the company’s newsroom at http://cnw.fm/GPFT
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