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Legislation to crack down on marijuana products, including synthetics, heads to Youngkin

The General Assembly failed at finding a path to starting recreational marijuana sales this year, but a law outlining stricter regulations for retailers selling what one lawmaker called “juiced-up” synthetic products made its way through the legislature last week with bipartisan support.

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By Jackie Llanos Hernandez

The General Assembly failed at finding a path to starting recreational marijuana sales this year, but a law outlining stricter regulations for retailers selling what one lawmaker called “juiced-up” synthetic products made its way through the legislature last week with bipartisan support.

The bill, which is now before Gov. Glenn Youngkin, explicitly bans sales of any substance that contains more than 0.3 percent or .25 milligrams of THC per serving or more than one milligram per package. The measurements would apply to any naturally occurring or synthetic version of THC such as delta-8, the popular synthetic substitute made from industrial hemp that producers claim is legal.

“This product is dangerous because people don’t understand the impact, the safety issues,”  said Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, who introduced the legislation.

Since the personal possession and home cultivation of marijuana became legal in the commonwealth last year, but not commercial recreational sales of the drug, which is currently restricted to licensed medical dispensaries, have led to a wide variety of products that may or may not be legal being sold in retail outlets. As reported by The Mercury last month, gas stations, health food stores and marijuana retailers sold mislabeled products that contained illegal amounts of delta-9 THC marketed as the supposedly legal delta-8 counterpart. Wrangling between the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate this year failed to produce a solution for legalizing recreational sales.

“Every year the language gets a little bit closer, ultimately, to what we need to support consumer safety to ensure consumer protections,” said Michelle Peace, a forensic science professor at VCU, who has conducted reviews of marijuana retail products sold in Virginia stores. “I don’t think that the bill is going to address absolutely everything we need it to address in terms of regulating cannabis, but I do think that it gets us closer.”

When it was introduced, Hanger’s SB 591 attempted to curtail marijuana retail products’ appeal to children by banning depictions of humans, animals, vehicles and fruits. But the law expanded to bring the unregulated market under control.

To close the loopholes when a new compound comes on the market it is essential for legislation to give state agencies flexibility in the existing regulatory framework, Peace said, describing the popularity of delta-8 as a perennial problem that would continue with scientific advancements.

Although the law passed with broad bipartisan support, hemp advocates such as Jason Amatucci, the president of the Virginia Hemp Coalition, say the legislation “throws the whole hemp industry under the bus.” Amatucci agreed with the provision that will regulate products’ appeal to children but said the limits set forth are so low they would criminalize most products. 

“This bill doesn’t do anything to actually solve the problem,” Amatucci said. “It actually just hurts the current law-abiding Virginia hemp industry that’s making good quality products.”

At the federal level, delta-8 remains unregulated because of a loophole in the 2018 farm bill that regulated the levels of delta-9 THC levels in hemp – legalizing a 0.3 percent standard that the law passed by the General Assembly mirrors – but does not mention delta-8.    

“All the politicians celebrate alcohol and everybody loves it,” Amatucci said. “But as soon as you have cannabis or someone is intoxicated with cannabis, everybody loses their minds on this state. They can’t think clearly, and they feel like they can’t regulate it, or they have to ban it or they have to criminalize it.”

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Robert Zullo for questions: [email protected] Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Community

2nd Street Festival Cancelled Grand Master Flash Performing at Hippodrome

Although the festival is cancelled there is a least one show that will go on. Curse you Hurrican Ian, curse you.

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Sad news from Venture Richmond

Venture Richmond Events has made the incredibly difficult decision to cancel the 2nd Street Festival, scheduled for this weekend, Oct. 1-2.

Like many, the Venture Richmond Events team has watched Ian for days, hoping that it would not be the massive and potentially deadly weather event that it clearly is. While we are extremely lucky to be a few states away from the serious issues Florida is facing, we also know that this weekend promises uncertain amounts of rainfall and potential wind gusts for our area. After consulting meteorologists, vendors, contractors, security, and other event planners, and after considering the Governor’s State of Emergency, we concluded to the best of our ability, that the event, if held, would not be safe. We must put the safety of our patrons, artists, vendors, contractors, and staff foremost.

There is good news though – a portion of the party will go on indoors! Our festival headliner, Grandmaster Flash will perform indoors at The Hippodrome theater on 2nd Street in Jackson Ward on Saturday evening. This performance will be FREE and open to the public, but capacity is limited and based upon availability.

2nd Street Festival at The Hipp

A special performance by Grandmaster Flash with an opening band

Saturday, October 1, 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. Hippodrome Theater, 528 N. 2nd Street

Doors 4:30 p.m.

Free and open to the public with limited capacity and based upon availability.

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Community

Virginia Pridefest Festing on Brown’s Island

The Truist Main Stage headlining acts include The Queen of Bounce, Big Freedia, Leikeli 47 and Rosé from RuPaul’s Drag Race.

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Pridefest weekend features three amazing events, beginning with Pride After Dark: Animal -the official pre-Pride Party. Get your tickets for Pride After Dark at vapride.org Pridefest is Saturday on Browns Island featuring Leikeli47, Big Freedia, and numerous local performers and is free and open to all. The weekend of festivities will end at Bingo Beer Co. With Snatch’d: a Rainbow Celebration – no ticket required.

Virginia Pride is a program of Diversity Richmond, the LGBTQ Community Center for Central Virginia. A committee of volunteers oversees VA Pride’s efforts to make the Richmond Region a better place for LGBTQ people to live, work and visit.

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Persons of interest in Jewelry Theft

Friday, September 16, at approximately 1:30 p.m. two individuals entered an open business and stole several pieces of jewelry before leaving the store in an unknown direction.

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From RPD

Richmond Police detectives are asking for the public’s assistance in identifying the individuals in these photos who are persons of interest in a theft that occurred last Friday in the 1300 block of East Cary Street.

Friday, September 16, at approximately 1:30 p.m. two individuals entered an open business and stole several pieces of jewelry before leaving the store in an unknown direction.

The female suspect is approximately 5 foot 7 inches tall, weighing approximately 180 pounds, last seen wearing a black shirt, white pants, black sandals, carrying a black shoulder bag.

The male suspect is approximately 5 foot 7 inches tall, weighing approximately 160 pounds, last seen wearing a white t-shirt, blue jeans, brown shoes, black baseball style hat.

Anyone with information about the identity of these individuals are asked to call First Precinct Detective T. Wilson at (804) 646-0672 or Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones also may be used. All Crime Stoppers reporting methods are anonymous.

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