Virginia lawmakers pass bill to get tougher on hemp products

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Both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly voted Friday to pass a bill to toughen regulations on hemp-derived products that contain intoxicating THC through a more robust permitting system and stricter labeling rules.

Retail marijuana sales will remain illegal under the proposed law. Proponents of the bill called it a necessary first step toward cracking down on largely unregulated THC products, including increasingly common delta-8 edibles, that have created safety and consumer protection concerns.

“I think this will go a long way in making sure that our communities are safe and that folks are buying what they purport to buy,” House of Delegates Majority Leader Terry Kilgore, R-Scott, said before his chamber approved the bill 85-9.

The proposal’s support was more mixed in the state Senate, where several Democrats warned it would lead to an even more convoluted regulatory scheme for cannabis. Noting the bill seemed to split regulatory authority between the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) and the new Virginia Cannabis Control Authority, Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, compared it to having one agency regulating beer and a different agency regulating liquor.

“This is a first step toward a complete mess,” Surovell said as the bill passed the Senate 23-17. “And the reason we’re doing this is because somebody upstairs doesn’t want to talk about it.”

Gov. Glenn Youngkin backed the hemp bill, but he has studiously avoided wading into the debate over whether the state should fully legalize marijuana after Democrats made Virginia the first state in the South to allow possession of small amounts of weed. State law also now allows Virginians to grow up to four marijuana plants at home. But outside of the state’s medical cannabis program, there’s still no legal way to purchase marijuana.

Because state and federal law on industrial hemp has loosened, enterprising store owners have started selling hemp-derived products made to be a synthetic stand-in for marijuana, offering similar but typically milder highs. After several reports of children being sickened by those products, Youngkin and Attorney General Jason Miyares have both taken steps to try to limit the availability of intoxicating or mislabeled products.

Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, said he understood some in the hemp industry weren’t going to be happy with the bill, because they’ll have to stop selling the type of products policymakers want to restrict.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner and republished with permission. Sign up for’s free email subscription today.


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