Tobacco company Altria backs legal marijuana, gets involved in Virginia lobbying

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The Henrico-based Altria Group, which is the world’s largest tobacco producer, is getting involved in pro-marijuana lobbying for the first time, joining the effort to legalize the cultivation, sale and use of marijuana in Virginia.

Last year, Altria purchased a stake in the Canadian based marijuana business Cronos and began patenting products related to marijuana. However, this is the first time the company has gotten involved in lobbying in favor of marijuana legalization at any level of government.

“Altria supports the federal legalization of cannabis under an appropriate regulatory framework,” George Parman, a spokesperson for Altria, told The Center Square. “As a stakeholder in this industry we intend to work with policy makers and regulators to support a transparent, responsible, and equitable operating environment for the sale of cannabis.”

Fanatics.comTampa Bay Buccaneers Nike Super Bowl LV Champions Locker Room Trophy Collection T-Shirt – Anthracit$37.99Shop NowThe group hired Elizabeth Rafferty from Williams Mullen, a Richmond-based law firm, to convey their lobbying agenda to the statewide lawmakers. Altria has been involved in tobacco-related lobbying in the commonwealth and at the national level.

Legislation to legalize marijuana is making its way through the Virginia General Assembly and looks promising. The House of Delegates and the Senate both passed their own versions of legalization legislation, although they will have to work out some differences in their approaches before it can be sent to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk, who has indicated he would sign the legislation.

Both bills would set up a system to regulate and license the cultivation, transportation and retail sides of the market and set sales to begin in 2024, unless it is sped up to 2023 by an act of the legislature. Purchase would be legal for adults 21 years or older and the state will enforce ID checks, similar to the sale of alcohol.

Some differences in the bills include local government authority. In the House-passed version, local governments would be forced to allow retail sales of marijuana subject to local zoning laws. Alternative, the Senate-passed version would allow local governments to opt out of allowing retail sales within their jurisdiction.

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