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Virginia Beach will create task force to decipher marijuana laws




Virginia Beach City Council will create a new task force to help officials untangle the state’s marijuana regulations.

Last year, the state’s general assembly made it legal to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to four plants “ for personal use” at home. 

However, a patchwork of laws still limit its use and prevent the city from generating income from the potential new industry. Smoking marijuana in public is still illegal. Also, federal law still bars bringing marijuana across state lines, and the state prohibits “gifting schemes” that might get around sales restrictions. 

“The General Assembly has not yet approved legislation to authorize retail sales of cannabis,” a city report noted, “but it may do so in the future.” 

U.S. cannabis sales could exceed $72 billion within the decade, according to some estimates.

Debra Bryan, the city’s legislative affairs director, said state lawmakers originally set 2024 as the target date to allow sales. Bryan said lawmakers never finalized the plan, and Republicans taking control of the Governor’s mansion and House of Delegates this year threw the deadline into doubt.

“That put the state into a gray area with regard to cannabis regulation,” Bryan told City Council earlier this month. “We just do not know what is going to happen next year.”

The 16-member task force will include health care, law enforcement and cannabis industry representatives, and it will review the current laws around growing, selling and consuming marijuana. It will also recommend local regulations like zoning policies, as well as gather input from the public on the issue.

The task force will also include a member of City Council, a “resort business professional,” a member of the city’s Minority Business Council, an official from the Virginia Beach City Public Schools and three local residents. 

"This is a new concept that a lot of people are going to have to get ready for," Mayor Bobby Dyer said at a recent City Council meeting.

The state’s Cannabis Control Authority, which sets marijuana regulations, will meet with City Council Nov. 1.

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