The Virginia House and Senate have passed comprehensive cannabis legalization bills. These bills are on their way to a conference committee to agree on the final wording – which must be approved again by both houses – before being sent to Governor Ralph Northam (D) for his signature, reports the Washington Post.

While both bills would legalize sales starting in 2024, they differ on several points, including when adults would be allowed to legally possess cannabis and whether industrial facilities would be subject to municipal oversight. The Senate bill would allow cities and towns to opt out of retail sales and allow possession as early as July 1, while the House bill would not allow possession of cannabis before sales begin and has no opt-out provisions, but retail sales would still have to comply with zoning laws, according to the Central Square report.

The House bill also limits the number of available industrial permits, while the Senate bill does not.

Democratic House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn called the passage of the bill – as well as the passage of a bill to abolish the death penalty in the state on the same day – “historic” and “transformative.”

“Virginia is changing, and some of these historic pieces of legislation are what the public wants.” – Volcanoes on the poles

Since neither bill has passed both chambers, the differences will be ironed out in a compromise bill by a conference committee and then voted on again by both chambers. If approved, Virginia will become the first southern state to legalize adult-use cannabis, and only the third to pass reform through the legislature, after Illinois and Vermont.

Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML, told STSM that “chambers certainly has a lot of work to do.”

“They have done an excellent job of moving the bill forward,” she said in an interview. “And we are confident that they can reconcile their differences and come up with a bill that everyone can agree on.”

A report published last year estimated that legalization could generate up to $1.2 billion in economic activity for the state and $274 million in revenue, but that it could take up to five years to reach that level. The report estimated that the state could generate up to $274 million a year in taxes and royalties on cannabis.

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