Youngkin vetoes recreational marijuana sales bill, citing threats to 'health and safety'

"The current illegal cannabis market in Virginia is pervasive and dangerous. Marijuana carries the same dangers as other drugs," he said.
Gov. Youngkin in Alexandria, Feb. 2022

Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Thursday vetoed legislation that would have created a state-regulated market for recreational marijuana sales.

The Old Dominion currently permits qualified patients to secure marijuana for medical purposes and in 2021 legalized its use and cultivation by residents aged 21 and older, though it has not yet approved a framework for legal retail sales, according to The Hill. The measure would have set up the process to permit the market to open in May of 2025 and set up a maximum tax rate of 11.625%, the Associated Press reported.

In issuing the veto, Youngkin asserted that a state-regulated market would not eliminate illicit sales and would lead to adverse health and social consequences for Virginians.

"The proposed legalization of retail marijuana in the Commonwealth endangers Virginians’ health and safety," he said in a statement. "States following this path have seen adverse effects on children’s and adolescent’s health and safety, increased gang activity and violent crime, significant deterioration in mental health, decreased road safety, and significant costs associated with retail marijuana that far exceed tax revenue."

"It also does not eliminate the illegal black-market sale of cannabis, nor guarantee product safety. Addressing the inconsistencies in enforcement and regulation in Virginia’s current laws does not justify expanding access to cannabis, following the failed paths of other states and endangering Virginians’ health and safety," he further contended.

"The current illegal cannabis market in Virginia is pervasive and dangerous. Marijuana carries the same dangers as other drugs; the Commonwealth recognized this when it created a medical marijuana system," the Republican went on. "Opioids and other controlled substances are highly regulated and require the consultation of a medical provider to mitigate their negative consequences."

"Even with those protections in place, these drugs have had perverse and dangerous consequences for Virginians. The same is true for marijuana. Attempting to rectify the error of decriminalizing marijuana by establishing a safe and regulated marketplace is an unachievable goal," he concluded. "The more prudent approach would be to revisit the issue of discrepancies in enforcement, not compounding the risks and endangering Virginians’ health and safety with greater market availability. Accordingly, I veto this bill."

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter.