Virginia Governor May Let Cannabis Bill Become Law Without His Signature

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin has not indicated whether he will sign, veto, or amend the cannabis bill that the legislature passed last week, which would legalize and regulate the retail sales of cannabis in the state. However, some sources suggest that he may let the bill become law without his signature, as a way to avoid political controversy and to secure support for his other agenda items.

The cannabis bill, SB 448, would create a legal framework for the retail sales of cannabis in Virginia, with tax revenue benefits and a planned market opening as early as May 1, 2025. Adults would be allowed to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana or an equivalent amount of other cannabis products per transaction, with the applied taxes. The bill also sets a total tax rate for marijuana purchases at 11.625%.

The bill would also establish a new agency, the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority, to oversee and regulate the cannabis industry, and to issue licenses for various types of cannabis businesses, such as retailers, growers, processors, transporters, and testing facilities. The bill would also create a social equity program, to provide opportunities and assistance for people and communities that have been disproportionately affected by the prohibition and criminalization of cannabis.

The bill would not affect the current laws that allow adult use and home cultivation of cannabis, which took effect in 2021. However, the bill would prohibit the unregulated sales of cannabis, which have been occurring in the state since the legalization of adult use. The bill would also impose penalties for driving under the influence of cannabis, and for providing cannabis to minors.

The Governor’s Dilemma: To Sign, Veto, Amend, or Do Nothing

The governor, who took office in January, has not expressed much interest or enthusiasm for the cannabis bill, and has not stated his position on the issue. He has said that he wants to focus on other priorities, such as education, health care, and economic development. He has also said that he wants to work with the legislature on areas where they can find common ground and agreement.

However, the governor faces a dilemma, as he has to decide what to do with the cannabis bill, which has been sent to his desk by the legislature, which is controlled by the Democrats. Under Virginia law, the governor has three options: he can sign the bill, he can veto the bill, or he can propose amendments to the bill and send it back to the legislature for further consideration. If the governor does nothing within 30 days after the legislature adjourns, the bill will automatically become law.

The governor may not want to sign the bill, as he may face backlash from his conservative supporters, who may oppose the legalization and regulation of cannabis. The governor may also not want to veto the bill, as he may face criticism from his moderate and progressive voters, who may support the reform and modernization of cannabis laws. The governor may also not want to amend the bill, as he may not have enough influence or leverage to change the bill to his liking.

Therefore, the governor may opt to do nothing, and let the bill become law without his signature. This way, he can avoid taking a clear stance on the issue, and avoid alienating any of his constituents. He can also avoid a direct confrontation with the legislature, which may not have enough votes to override his veto, but may also not accept his amendments.

The Governor’s Strategy: To Trade Cannabis for Sports

The governor may also have another reason to let the cannabis bill become law without his signature: he may want to use it as a bargaining chip to advance his other agenda items, especially his plan to relocate two major sports teams to northern Virginia. The governor has expressed his interest and support for moving the Washington Capitals NHL team and the Washington Wizards NBA team from Washington, D.C. to Alexandria, Virginia, where he hopes to build a new arena and entertainment complex.

However, the governor needs the approval and cooperation of the legislature, which may not be willing to support his plan, unless he gives them something in return. Some Democrats in the legislature have indicated that they will only back the governor’s sports plan, if he allows the cannabis bill to become law. They see the cannabis bill as a way to generate tax revenue, create jobs, and promote social justice in the state.

The governor may see this as an opportunity to strike a deal with the legislature, and to achieve his goal of bringing the sports teams to Virginia. He may also see this as a way to boost his popularity and reputation, as he may appeal to the sports fans and the business community in the state. He may also see this as a way to avoid the responsibility and the blame for the cannabis bill, as he can claim that he did not sign it, and that he did it for the sake of the sports plan.

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