Virginia Becomes 1st Southern State to Legalize Marijuana

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By Denise Lavoie & Sarah Rankina, Associated Press

(AP) — Virginia lawmakers provided approval that is final week to a bill that will legalize marijuana for adult recreational use, but not until 2024, when retail sales of the drug would also begin.

With a compromise bill clearing the House and Senate, Virginia becomes the first Southern state to vote to legalize marijuana, joining 15 other states and the District of Columbia. The legislation now goes to Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who supports legalization.

The bill was a priority that is top Democrats, whom framed legalization as an essential action to get rid of the disparate remedy for individuals of color under present cannabis rules. But speaks between Democrats in the home and Senate expanded tense in current times, and a compromise form of the bill that is massive not emerge publicly until late Saturday afternoon.

“It’s been a lot of work to get here, but I would say that we’re on the path to an law that is equitable accountable grownups to utilize cannabis,” said Sen. Adam Ebbin, the principle sponsor associated with Senate bill.

Several Democrats said they hoped Northam would back send the legislation to them with amendments, including speeding up the date for legalization.

“If we have already made the decision that simple possession should be repealed, we could have done that today and ended the fines that are disproportionate communities of color,” stated Sen. Jennifer McClellan.

“Let’s Be absolutely clear — this bill is not legalization, and there are a complete lot of steps between here and legalization,” she said.

Northam’s spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, said the governor “looks forward to continuing to improve this legislation.”

“There’s still a lot of work ahead, but this bill will help to reinvest in our communities and reduce inequities in our criminal justice system,” she said.

Under the legislation, possession of up to an ounce (28.3 grams) of marijuana will become beginning that is legal. 1, 2024, in addition product sales will start and laws goes into impact to regulate the cannabis market in Virginia.

Under a provision Senate Democrats insisted in, the legislation includes a reenactment clause which will need a vote that is second the General Assembly next year, but only on the regulatory framework and criminal penalties for several offenses, including underage use and public consumption of marijuana. A vote that is second never be needed on legalization.

The Senate had desired to legalize possession that is simple year to immediately end punishments for people with small amounts of marijuana, but House Democrats argued that legalization without a legal market for marijuana could promote the growth of the black market.

Lawmakers last year decriminalized marijuana, making possession that is simple civil penalty that may be penalized by an excellent of a maximum of $25.

House Majority Leader Charniele Herring stated that even though the legislation is not perfect, it absolutely was a “justice bill.”

“This techniques us in a direction that is strike down and to address those institutional barriers, and over-policing, over-arrests, over-convictions of African Americans who do not use marijuana at a higher rate than our white counterparts, but we seem to get the brunt of criminal convictions,” Herring said.

A recent study by the research that is legislature’s watchdog agency discovered that from 2010-2019, the common arrest price of Ebony people for cannabis control ended up being 3.5 times more than the arrest price for white people. The analysis additionally unearthed that Ebony everyone was convicted at a consistent level 3.9 times more than white people.

The bill demands dedicating 30% of cannabis income tax revenue — after program expenses — to a Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund. The amount of money could be utilized to aid communities which were historically over-policed for cannabis crimes, with funds going toward scholarships, workforce development and work positioning solutions, and low- or loans that are no-interest qualified cannabis businesses.

Virginians who have a conviction that is marijuana-related have actually loved ones with a conviction, or are now living in a place that is economically distressed could qualify as social equity candidates that would get preference for licenses to get involved with the cannabis market as cultivators, wholesalers, processors and stores.

The biggest percentage of the income tax income from cannabis product sales would get toward funding pre-K for at-risk children.

The bill received criticism that is sharp the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and and other racial justice advocacy groups.

“Today, the Virginia General Assembly failed to legalize marijuana for racial justice. Lawmakers paid lip service to the communities that have suffered decades of harm caused by the War that is racist on with legislation that falls in short supply of equitable reform and delays justice,” the ACLU stated in a tweet.

Groups that compared legalization entirely have actually stated these are typically worried it could cause a rise in drug-impaired driving crashes and also the usage of cannabis among youth.

Republican lawmakers talked contrary to the measure Saturday evening, saying such a issue that is critical a less rushed approach.

“I Would say there are not more than two or three members of this physical human anatomy which have an idea concerning the comprehensiveness of exactly what this bill does,” said Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment.

AP Picture Julio Cortez

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