Lunenburg may vote to restrict pot sales

Published 5:25 pm Friday, June 25, 2021

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Next week, due to changes in Virginia state law, it will become legal July 1 for adults ages 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana in non-public places and grow up to four marijuana plants in their homes.

But if you’re looking to purchase marijuana in a retail store, those products will not begin until 2024, giving localities like Lunenburg the time to place the issue on the ballot.

During its June meeting, the Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors (BOS) agreed to proceed to start the process of placing a referendum on the November 2022 ballot.

The discussion came after a presentation by County Attorney Frank Rennie.

“Under the current legislation, marijuana retail sales outlets can be opened and operated in the county after Jan. 1, 2024,” Rennie said. “Under the new legislation, the General Assembly allows the local governing body to present a referendum to the county voters on whether retail sales establishments should be prohibited in Lunenburg County.”

According to Rennie, the code section that governs a referendum on this issue is not effective until July 1, 2022.

At that time, the BOS may, by resolution, petition the circuit court for a referendum.

“It is important to note that the referendum must be completed prior to Jan. 1, 2023,” Rennie said, “That means that a referendum petition would need to be presented to the Lunenburg Circuit Court after July 1, 2022, but before Sept. 1, 2022, with the actual referendum appearing on the general election ballot in Nov. 2022.”

If voters vote no, retail marijuana stores will be allowed to open 60 days after the referendum results are certified or on Jan. 1, 2024, whichever comes later.

If voters vote yes, retail marijuana stores will be prohibited in Lunenburg effective Jan. 1 of the year immediately following the referendum.

In 2020, Virginia decriminalized simple possession of marijuana, meaning those found in possession of it for personal use now only face a $25 civil penalty rather than criminal charges and the possibility of incarceration.

Virginia is the first southern state to legalize marijuana possession for non-medical purposes.