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  • 🙅 Virginia Governor vetoes legal weed

🙅 Virginia Governor vetoes legal weed

Plus, Florida kicks the can down the road

Good morning.

Another day, another Republican doing their best to stymie cannabis reform. We’re not mad, just disappointed. 

In this one, our Editor-in-Chief Jeremy calls it like he sees it. Drop us a line by replying to this email to let us know what you think. 

- Jeremy Berke & Jay Rosenthal

💡What’s the big deal?

Republicans continue to stymie reform

What happened: Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin vetoed a legalization bill that passed the legislature. It’s yet another sign of continued Republican opposition to cannabis reform, though this time, Youngkin’s move has teeth. 

For some cannabis firms that have invested heavily in the state like Green Thumb Industries, it’s a tough blow. And for cannabis consumers, criminal justice advocates, and every day Virginians that could benefit from legalization, it’s even worse. 

What he’s saying: “I have vetoed the bill to create a commercial retail market for cannabis,” Youngkin told a local news outlet. “Cannabis is bad for Virginia. And in all the other states that have had an extensive retail market, what you see is first it's terrible for children and adolescents' health and safety, massive increases in child poisonings, massive increases in adolescent usage.”

You can read the rest of his statement here

The other side: “Gov. Younkin’s (sic) commitment to perpetuating the harms of the drug is deeply embarrassing. With the stroke of a pen he has reinforced yet another barrier for Virginians. This doesn’t just impact individuals, it reverberates through families, education & housing. We deserve better!” Chelsea Higgs Wise, the leader of Virginia’s pro-legalization Marijuana Justice group said.

Our take: Youngkin’s statement is more fear than fact, which is typical of members of his party when it comes to cannabis policy. It’s fair to be opposed to legalization, but he cites easily refutable “facts” in his statement. 

Youngkin’s argument boils down to the notion that he believes the externalities associated with legalization far outweigh the economic benefits, like job growth and taxes. But his evidence is easily debunked.

  • First, there’s no evidence that legalization leads to a massive increase in adolescent usage. In fact, it doesn’t lead to an increase at all, according to a study in the journal Addictive Behaviors

  • Second, he conflates California’s struggles to erode the illicit market with a failure of cannabis legalization more generally. But each state makes its own choices regarding cannabis policy, and the delicate balance between public health, criminal justice, and economic growth. Canada, research shows, has been far more effective so far at eroding the illicit market than many US states though it benefits from a top-down, federal approach. 

  • And third, his assertion that there have been “systematic” increases in violent crime is, at the very minimum, statistically inaccurate and the maximum, a deliberate attempt to conflate increased cannabis use with a more crime-ridden and sinful society. 

In fact, research shows that states that legalized cannabis track the national average for crime rates, meaning that legalization has little-to-no-effect.

Of course, many of these issues need further research and it’s important to do so. We should all be clear-eyed about the benefits and risks associated with legalization, and not resort to fear-mongering, as Youngkin is doing. 

Final word: Youngkin spent 25 years at the private equity firm Carlyle, which is a pretty competitive place. Perhaps I’m making an assumption, but I don’t think he’d use such flimsy logic to evaluate a deal. It’s cognitive bias in real time. 

He has a Harvard MBA,, and he runs a state with a rather large economy. The standard should be much higher for him and as a journalist, I’ll hold him to that. 

And Youngkin isn’t in stellar company. Far-right social media personalities like Mike Cernovich — and anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana — are taking yet another fact-free and premature victory lap, here. 

Back up: I’d caution investors who believe that Republicans might be good for cannabis reform to consider the past few weeks. 

Earlier this week, three Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, including Mitt Romney, urged the Drug Enforcement Administration to reconsider rescheduling cannabis as they say it violates the UN’s treaty obligations.

That argument has since been debunked, both in this newsletter, by lawyers, and other drug policy experts including Steve Rolles of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation on X. 

And, the House Republican Policy Committee earlier this month urged members to vote against the SAFER Banking Act, a cannabis banking bill, for similar reasons Youngkin cites. 

Compare that to Democrats, who, though slow moving, have called cannabis reform a top legislative priority

What’s next: Youngkin’s veto will likely hold up, given the structure of the state’s legislature. Perhaps state lawmakers will try again, but as long as Youngkin is in office, he’ll be an obstacle. 


🥊 Quick hits

Florida’s Supreme Court declined to weigh in on whether to include a proposal to legalize recreational cannabis on the November ballot. The court has an April 1 deadline to make a decision. 

New York Assemblywoman Jennifer Rajkumar held a rally in Times Square in support of her Smokeout Act, which she hopes to get included in the state’s budget. The bill would provide more enforcement power for local jurisdictions to shut down illicit cannabis shops

Three Texas A&M basketball players were arrested for possessing less than two ounces of cannabis on Wednesday, after police found them smoking in a car near campus. We’re going to call this very stupid, given that they are all over 21 and what they were doing would be perfectly legal in neighboring Colorado. 

California cops were forced to return around $800,000 worth of cannabis to a Costa Mesa cannabis distribution firm, Se7enLeaf, reports The Los Angeles Times

🗞️ What we’re reading

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