Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Monday proposed that the General Assembly establish new misdemeanor penalties for people in possession of more than two ounces of marijuana, a move that was recommended last year by a state oversight agency.
Youngkin’s proposal comes in the form of an amendment to a bill, which will go back to the General Assembly for consideration on April 27 when lawmakers consider vetoes and amendments that the governor made before a midnight Monday deadline. The first-year governor also announced signing more than 700 bills Monday.
Virginia last year legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults. Up to an ounce is legal. Anyone caught with between an ounce and a pound — 16 ounces — of marijuana is subject to a civil penalty of $25. And people with more than a pound face a criminal felony charge.
The state’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee recommended in June that Virginia follow other states that have legalized small amounts of marijuana but still maintain a criminal misdemeanor charge for people who have gradually larger amounts.
But some civil rights advocates have opposed creation of new marijuana-related crimes. The legislature hasn’t taken any action on the issue.
Youngkin made the amendment to a bill sponsored by Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, that requires state officials to create regulations prohibiting production and sale of retail marijuana products that depict or are in the shape of a human, animal, vehicle or fruit.
Youngkin also is amending that bill to set the minimum age at 21 for buying CBD products.
The bill would also ban products containing Delta-8, a hemp-derived product sold in shops and convenience stores that users say feels similar to marijuana.
The legislature sent 841 bills to Youngkin during the 2022 regular session and he offered amendments to 100 of them, although his office said many of the amendments were technical. Among other amendments by the governor is one that adds further training for law enforcement use of facial-recognition technology.
“I call on the General Assembly to adopt these changes and quickly enact them into law so that they can benefit all residents of the Commonwealth,” Youngkin said in a statement.
Youngkin vetoed 25 bills, his office said.
The General Assembly remains in special session because lawmakers were unable to reach agreement on a new budget in the regular session, and some pieces of legislation remain outstanding.
When lawmakers convene later this month to address amendments and vetoes issued by the governor to legislation passed in the regular session, which ended March 12, they can accept his amendments or reject them. But if they reject, they risk Youngkin vetoing a bill entirely.
Youngkin has signed:
- Legislation to make improvements to adult guardianships and conservatorships, reforms stemming from a series of articles published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 2019.
- A bill designed to prevent law-enforcement agencies from creating traffic ticket quotas for officers and deputies.
- A bill that prohibits anyone other than certain attorneys and certain family members of victims from getting access to any closed police investigative file in the state.
- A bill that eliminates the prohibition on switchblades.
- Legislation that strips power from citizen environmental advisory boards.