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Virginia Beach considers implementing a 'marijuana task force'

Although buying recreational marijuana remains illegal in Virginia, city leaders in Virginia Beach are preparing for it to become legal in the future.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Buying recreational marijuana in Virginia remains illegal, but city leaders in Virginia Beach are preparing for it to become legal in the future.

An advisory committee is proposing a "Marijuana Task Force," which would be dedicated to informing organizations looking to sell recreational marijuana on where, how, and what conditions it would be legal for them to sell.

"This isn't about the for's or against's of recreational marijuana," said Randy Thompson, vice chair of the Resort Advisory Committee. "It's more about how can we make this a positive experience for the resort area."

Under current Virginia law, it is legal for a person to have, use, and grow marijuana. However, a person may not buy or sell recreational marijuana. 

A state law passed in 2021, stated the state's recreational marijuana market for adults 21 and up is scheduled to happen by 2024. State leaders are expected to revisit the issue as the state gets closer to that timeline. 

Thompson said he recommended the task force to city council members after considering what recreational marijuana could look like at the Oceanfront. He said he does not want families to be walking through clouds of smoke while they visit the beach.

"I would love to see protocols in place on how many can be on a block, how close they can be to schools, if there is a neighborhood nearby," said Thompson.

City Councilmember Michael Berlucchi said he has heard the committee's concerns and is finding support for the task force with other city council members. 

"It is our responsibility to be responsible, to be strategic with this," said Berlucchi. "It's an issue that is going to affect our entire city and entire community, and I want to make sure we have the chance to bring everyone to the table so that we can do the best thing for our Virginia Beach community."

Cannabis supply leaders also are responding to news of the possible task force. Ryan Boyce, co-owner of GROW VA, a supplier of cannabis, said they would like to be a part of that discussion.

"As a business owner, I can say that clarity would be the best thing," said Boyce. "Because then the people who are trying to do it correctly, can take those steps to do it correctly." 

Boyce said there is a common ground where would-be distributors would also want what is best for Virginia Beach residents. He said there are many companies who would be happy to fill out the forms and follow the rules, but they need to know them first.

"We have been following this for a long time now and each time the answer is a little different," said Boyce. "I hope they reach out to local companies like us first and listen to us, and help us to destigmatize marijuana."

Local groups may have to wait for a lengthy time.

Berlucchi said there is still much work that needs to be done on the proposal. It is not expected to be on any agenda for several weeks.  

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