The move by Youngkin comes amid the ongoing absence of a fully regulated and operational adult-use cannabis market.
The Republican governor of Virginia is asking state lawmakers to give him more tools to crack down on largely unregulated cannabis products and retailers, particularly hemp-derived goods such as delta-8 and delta-10 edibles.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin included several such requests in his 2023 state budget proposal, including asking for $2.1 million and 15 new positions within the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) to “eliminate intoxicating cannabis-derived products from unregulated channels,” a spokesperson for Youngkin told the Virginia Mercury.
Youngkin also requested $513,000 in new funding for the state attorney general’s office, so the agency can hire five more “cannabis consumer protection investigators.”
Attorney General Jason Miyares already pledged to go after retailers selling possibly illegal cannabis goods, such as knockoff edibles that are colorfully packaged and can be easily confused with mainstream candy.
The move by Youngkin comes amid the ongoing absence of a fully regulated and operational adult-use cannabis market, which is not slated to launch until next year sometime. State lawmakers still have to agree on a regulatory system for the industry, and at least one bill to do that has been introduced this year.
The crackdown, however, will also contribute to market uncertainty, since many businesses that could be affected believe they were operating within the bounds of the law, WRIC reported.
“These products do need some kind of regulation so that consumers are getting a safe and effective product. At the same time, the way the state is going about this has been very confusing,” said one Richmond-based hemp goods retailer who sold delta-8 and delta-10 edibles before state inspectors told him to cease and desist last year.
A spokesman for the VDACS told WRIC that his agency has made more than 5,300 site inspections since July to enforce new rules on hemp goods and that less than 7% of vendors were selling illegal marijuana or hemp goods. There are currently 12 companies involved in administrative hearings to determine whether the goods they were selling were legal or not, WRIC reported.