MIDLOTHIAN, Va. -- Outside Midlothian's Kultivate Wellness, a green light, shaped like a cross, shines brightly, signaling the business's open doors.
But owner Evan Somogyi says his CBD and hemp business's long-winding path to success has now been stopped in its tracks, with new Virginia laws that took effect early this month now serving as a red light halting some of his business.
"This industry, for me, for the past 24 years, has been like a giant game of whack-a-mole," Somogyi said. "But right now, is definitely the strangest time it's ever been.
A sign of the times now sits at the checkout counter at the shop, notifying customers that as of this month, hemp-derived THC products that can give users a high can no longer be legally sold in Virginia stores.
Senate Bill 903 now limits the total amount of THC, the psychoactive compound of cannabis that gives users a high, to two milligrams. The law does allow for products that have more than two milligrams of THC per package to be sold legally if they have a 25:1 ratio of CBD to THC.
The bill was one of several inspired by the Youngkin administration's push to regulate the products that may look enticing to young children, as well as crack down on products being shipped in from out of state with no testing or verification of their contents.
Since the legislation's introduction, some have worried about having access to CBD and THC used to treat anxiety, stress, or other health issues.
"One of my dog trainer friends was using it for PTSD," Somogyi explained. "He was really bummed when those laws took place as well, because they were really helping him."
Somogyi said the change was one reason his Short Pump location closed its doors.
"There are store closing left and right," Somogyi said. "I've been one of those stores closing."
"I think a lot of the people that are closing are people that were in it for the wrong reasons. They were in it for the 'Green Rush,' and those are also the people, if you look up the stores that have been closing, those were the stores that were selling whatever to whoever," he said.
More than 50 products Somogyi's business sold, like Delta-8 and Delta-9 tinctures and edibles, are now in a display case, no longer available for purchase in-store.
"We've probably lost about 75% of our income at Kultivate Wellness," he said. At Kulture, one of Somogyi's other hemp business ventures, has lost between 40 to 60% of its income.
"Virginia's losing billions of taxpayer dollars," Somogyi said.
Now, Somogyi is opening up a Kultivate Wellness in North Carolina near Lake Gaston, where he can sell the federally legal THC products Virginia now limits.
"The decision was made for us," he explained. "It's crazy. They definitely dropped the ball on this, as far as I'm concerned."
Somogyi said had the industry been better regulated in its earlier stages, attempting to weed out what he called "bad actors" who continue to mislabel products or continue to sell products illegally, he would not have opened a store across state lines to survive.
"To just have the state that I call my home, that I put my roots in, I built my family in, throw me out basically," Somogyi said. "I feel like I'm being thrown out of my state."
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